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Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)

Defensible Space

Defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it.  This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects your home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important for the protection of the firefighters defending your home.

How to defend against Wildland Fires

Create Fire Safe Landscaping. A fire safe landscape isn’t necessarily the same thing as a well-maintained yard. A fire safe landscape uses fire resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home.

The good news is, you don’t need a lot of money to make your landscape fire safe. And you will find that a fire safe landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.

Choose Fire Resistant Plants and Materials. Create fire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, swimming pools, decks and roadways.

  • Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.
  • There are no “fire-proof” plants, but some are more fire resistant than others. Select high moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.
  • Choose plant species that resist ignition such as rockrose, iceplant and aloe.
  • Fire-resistant shrubs include hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.
  • Plant hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers.
  • Check your local nursery, landscape contractor or county extension service for advice on specific fire resistant plants that are suited for your environment, and help to plan your landscape.

How To Plant and Maintain Vegetation. Healthy lawn, ground cover, and perennials form a greenbelt in the home defense zone. Plants that are green and lush give better protection. If regularly watered and maintained to eliminate the accumulation of dry plant litter, these plants will be far less likely to carry fire to your home. While all plants will eventually burn, healthy ones with a high moisture content will be more difficult to ignite. Drip irrigation systems are effective and conserve water because they target where the water goes and control the quantity. Use sprinklers for lawns and ensure that your lawn is getting the right amount of water to keep it green, healthy, and thereby fire resistant. The home defense zone can contain the occasional individual shrub or tree that is located at least 10 feet from the house. By grouping plants of similar height and with similar water requirements, you can create a landscape mosaic that uses water more efficiently and is more likely to slow the spread of fire.

Where To Plant. Avoid putting plants in the following locations to minimize the movement of fire from vegetation to the home:

  • adjacent to the siding
  • under vents or eaves
  • tree limbs over the roof
  • under or near the deck

Check out FiresafeMARIN, they provide great information to homeowners to help you prepare for fire season.

Vegetation Disposal Tips

  1. Once a year FireSafe Marin offers Neighborhood Grants for Disposal!
  2. Self-funded Chipper Day: Some neighborhoods will divide the cost of a Chipper Day and assess the Chipper participants individually. Other option is to assess the entire association the cost of a Chipper Day.
  3. Marin Sanitation Service offers an additional “Green Can” for $1.50 a month. Give them a call at (415) 456-2601.
  4. In Nicasio there is a large dirt area where residents can drop off all their vegetation on Green Waste Days free of charge! This is your opportunity for free and safe disposal of green waste yard materials such as branches, grass and light brush. Please, no building materials, general debris or garbage and no palm trees please. To find out when the next Green Waste Day will be call (415) 473-6717
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