A low-ignition yard is a lush, well-designed landscape that not only protects your home, but also provides wildlife habitat and is lovely to look at and live in. While there's no perfect way to lay out the land to ensure your safety, there are steps you can take, specific plants you can use, and design tactics to implement that will lower the risk.
Here's what you need to know:
1. All plants will burn if the conditions are right. But, fear not! There are plants that are less flammable than others. Less fire-resistant plants often have the following characteristics:
- Are water-stressed
- Accumulate fine, twiggy, dry, or dead material
- Are evergreen
- Have stiff, leathery, small, or fine, lacy leaves
- Have loose or papery bark
- Will flame (not smolder) when preheated and ignited with a match
- Retain low-growing branches even as they become shaded
While no list is all-inclusive, you can find a comprehensive list of low-ignition plants suitable for the Inland West on Idaho Firewise's website. You want to look for plants that contain pectin (like fruit plants and trees), not plants with high oil content or trees with saps and resins, which are highly volatile.
Low-ignition plants cover the gamut from bulbs to succulents, trees and vines. If there's a plant in your landscape that is highly flammable and you are fond of, there is often a low-ignition plant that is similar in shape and color that you can use to replace it with.
2. Spacing and placement matter. How the plant materials are arranged is just as important as the species. You can merge every component in your landscape into one hard-working, fire-resistant structure.
First, make sure to provide adequate spacing between trees and shrubs (a good rule of thumb is twice the height of what the plant will be at maturity). Second, designate an enclosed storage area far away from your home to store lawn furniture, firewood, and other flammable outdoor items when a wildfire threatens.
Next, break up areas of fuel with non-flammable hardscapes, such as a rock wall—which can provide a natural-looking, fire-resistant buffer zone. Last, remove "ladder fuels," which are plant structures that allows fire to climb from ground fuels to the canopies of large trees. Pune limbs up to 6- to 10-feet from the ground and remove shrubs under trees.
3. Maintenance is key. Once you have established your low-ignition landscape, it will need regular maintenance. Keep your low-ignition landscape effective by regular pruning, mowing, raking and removal of diseased, dying or dead materials. Monitor your landscape for insects and disease and control as necessary.
Idaho Firewise is a non-profit organization that develops and promotes statewide wildfire education for those who live in or visit Idaho. To learn more about wildfire prevention and protection, visit www.idahofirewise.org.