Fire danger is high. Our cool, wet spring may fool you into thinking otherwise, but warmer and drier weather will bring optimal conditions for wildfires to spark. You cannot fireproof your landscape, but you can make it easier for firefighters to defend your home and a little less likely it will contribute to a fire’s spread.
Keep dry grasses around your home trimmed. Remove dead limbs from trees. Clean up brown leaves, preferably in autumn or early spring. If you use wood-based mulch, do not use it immediately adjacent to your home. Woodpiles should be as far as possible from your house. Move any easily combustible materials at least 30 feet from your dwellilng.
If you have scrub oak, thin the trees, remove diseased trees and limb them up at least 6 feet above any other vegetation.
Prune back any tree branches that touch any part of your home.
If you are adding or replacing a wooden deck or other attached structure, consider a less flammable material than wood.
Ember attack, f i re ladders
An “ember attack” can quickly spread a fire from a forested area to neighborhoods. Burning parts of trees, such as twigs, pine cones or leaves, become airborne and can travel up to a mile in high winds. If the embers land on combustible material, another fire can be ignited.
Fire ladders are routes for a ground fire to climb to taller vegetation, which will be a source of embers. A small grass fire can quickly turn into a conflagration if dead tree limbs are in direct contact with dry grass. Ideally, at least 6 feet of empty space should be between lower planted grasses, shrubs and tree limbs.
In our urban-wildland interface, remember: Fire is a natural renewal process for forests, but we don’t want our homes to burn. We should manage our urban forest to reduce that risk.
Consider f i rewise plant materials
While all plants will burn, some are more easily ignited. When selecting plants, consider water and resin content and growth habit.
A comprehensive discussion of plant selection for fire resistance can be found at Colorado State University Extension fact sheet Fire Wise Plant Materials – 6.305 https://bit.ly/2JJO1DF.
Consider using rock, gravel and stepping stones as a way to potentially alter the path of fire. These noncombustible enhancements can slow the spread of fire and add interest and texture to your garden.
Plants near your house should be widely spaced, in clusters rather than dense plantings. While most herbaceous plants will not substantially contribute to fire risk, good spacing will further reduce the risk that they will ignite and contribute to a fire spreading.
For more information on fire mitigation, visit the Colorado Springs Fire Department website at coloradosprings.gov/fire-department/page/wildfire-mitigation or call 719-385-7342.
You can have a beautiful garden and be fire safe too.
When you have questions, Colorado State University Extension has research-based answers. The Help Desk is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at 17 N. Spruce St. Call 520-7684 or email CSUmg2@elpasoco.com.