Jun 30, 2020
by Vesta Copestakes
By Vesta Copestakes
Home Hardening is a term most of us know by now, but it’s amazing how many people do NOT understand the concept. We’re heading into Fire Season so the more we pay attention to this topic, the better our homes will be prepared to survive a potential fire.
This is 5 feet all around your house. You are trying to keep flames from touching your house walls and roof. Most people are not willing to have zero landscaping against their houses, so choose plants that do not have high-oil content. Although high-oil plants are more drought-tolerant than lush leaves, they also burst into flames and burn HOT, which catches other things on fire.
If you have a Privacy Fence, remember that WOOD fences perform like a wick on a candle. Once lit, fire travels along the fence, so you want a BREAK in that combustible material when it gets close to your house. A metal gate, a section that won’t catch fire, or better yet, replace the wood fence with a metal fence or dense, moist plants that grow tall enough to feel like a fence.
Mulch holds in moisture so you don’t have to water as much, and your soil is protected from pounding rain and harsh sun. Choosing materials that don’t add to the fire problem is essential. During the October 2017 fires, high winds caused burning embers of bark mulch to fly on the wind where they caught more plants and objects on fire. The embers get carried into open garages, air vents under roofs, open windows, etc.
Loose mulch like Gorilla Hair are the most flammable because they have fine fibers with lots of air to feed fire. The finer the mulch, the less space between particles, and more decomposed the material the more reluctant it is to catch fire.
Compost used as mulch is the most fire-safe. Because it is already decomposed, it breaks down faster than bark or shredded wood, so needs to be applied more frequently. That also means it’s better for your soil as well as being more fire-safe.
Again, choosing your path material can create a fire break or add to the problem. If you choose wood path mulch, you are creating a potential flame path much like bark mulch. If you use non-flammable gravel, concrete pavers or bricks, stone pavers, etc. you will be creating a surface around your home that will actually protect it.
Using gravel also creates a permeable surface so when you water your plants you are also watering the earth within this perimeter. The more dense the material, the easier it is to keep clean, so remember that coarse gravel paths (chip) collect leaves easier than hard, smooth surfaces (sand, crushed shale, decomposed granite, pavers). Keeping dry leaves away from your house is another important aspect of a fire-safe garden, so make this easy so you sweep leaves often, especially during high-fire season.
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