Firewise landscape.

Fire Resistant Landscapes

Landscape Design Principles

Most of our outdoor living is done in Zone 1 in the area closest to homes and other structures.

Most of our outdoor living is done in the area closest to homes and other structures.

A fire resistant landscape 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. Most outdoor living is done in the first 30-feet adjacent to structures. Flaming brands and embers can easily lodge in cracks and crevices and are a common source of structure ignition.

Hardscaping is the non-living aspects of your landscape, such as mulch, walls and sidewalks. The principles of fire resistant landscaping focus on how landscape components work together to protect structures.

Your lawn furniture is fuel.

Flammable outdoor items, such as wicker or wooden patio furniture, cushions, doormats, window boxes and planters, garbage cans without lids and BBQ propane tanks are all places where embers can land and start a fire. Designate an enclosed storage area to store these items when a wildfire threatens. Park boats, campers, and recreational vehicles in enclosed areas, or securely cover and move them away from structures.

Hardscaping acts as a firebreak by breaking up contiguous fuels.

Hardscaping can act as a firebreak by breaking up contiguous fuels.

Use hardscapes to break up continuous fuels.

Non-flammable hardscapes, such as rock wall, function as firebreaks by breaking up areas of fuel. Rock can provide a natural looking, low-maintenance and water-efficient mulch and as well as a fire-resistant buffer zone.

A well-watered lawn is a firewise lawn.

Fire can move extremely fast through tall, dry grass and dead vegetation. Islands of vegetation surrounded by well-watered lawn are a good design choice. Maintain landscapes with regular irrigation, mowing, pruning, raking, weeding and dead plant removal.

Group fire resistant plant materials in islands.

Well-watered grass is surprisingly fire resistant.

Well-watered grass is surprisingly fire resistant.

How plant materials are arranged is just as important as species. Plants grouped in islands surrounded by nonflammable materials, such as a rock wall, are a great example of how landscape elements can work together to create breaks between fuels. 

Choose mulch wisely.

Mulch is a great way to control weeds and retain soil moisture, but flammable materials such as bark represent a huge fire risk. Rock can provide a natural-looking, low-maintenance, water-efficient mulch, as well as a fire-resistant buffer zone. Read Mulches for Firewise Landscapes to learn more.

Use care when choosing mulches for your Firewise landscape.

Move firewood well away from homes or other structures.

Piles of firewood can generate intense heat and long flame lengths when ignited, easily spreading fire to adjacent vegetation and nearby structures. During the fire season, store firewood at least 30-feet from structures and fuel tanks. Locate propane tanks on a nonflammable surface at least 30-feet away from structures as well, and enclose them with nonflammable fencing.

The rule of thumb is to space plants 2x the distance part they will be at maturity and to keep 3x the distance between shrubs and tree crowns.

Provide adequate spacing between trees and shrubs.

Limb trees 6- to 10-feet from the ground. Create space between trees and shrubs – a good rule of thumb is twice the height of what the plant will be at maturity. Remove tree limbs closer than 15-feet from chimneys and power lines and any touching the house or other structures.

Remove ladder fuels.

Remove ladder fuels.

Remove ladder fuels.  

The term "ladder fuels" describes a plant structure that allows fire to climb from ground fuels to the canopies of large trees via a ladder-like configuration of flammable vegetation. By pruning limbs up to 6- to 10-feet from the ground and removing shrubs under trees, you prevent ground fires from becoming dangerous, fast-moving crown fires.

Cover boats and other recreational vehicles and equipment.

Protect your outdoor recreational vehicles and equipment too. 

Vehicles and recreational equipment are often a source of ignition. The open bed of a pickup truck, uncovered boats and open windows on campers are perfect catchments for flaming brands and embers. Store recreational equipment in enclosed areas or, cover them securely to prevent ignition from flying brands and embers. Keep livestock trailers accessible and easily readied to transport animals in the event of an evacuation.

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 Bureau of Land Management   Idaho Department of Lands Idaho Fire Chiefs Association Idaho Office of Emergency Services  Idaho Project Learning TreeIdaho Parks and Recreation  Mid-Snake RC&D Nez Perce Tribe Forestry and Fire  University of Idaho Extension Forestry USDA Forest Service  Idaho Emergency Management Association (IEMA)