Fire-resistant Landscaping: Enhancing Your Home’s Insurability – Prepare for a fire and harden your home now. There are three ways your home can be exposed to fire: direct flames from a fire or a burning neighbor’s house; radiant heat from nearby burning equipment or structures; and flying coals. Flying embers from a fire can destroy houses up to a kilometer away and are responsible for the destruction of most houses during a fire.
Taking the necessary steps to fortify (prepare) your home can help increase its likelihood of survival when a wildfire hits.
Fire-resistant Landscaping: Enhancing Your Home’s Insurability
Here are ways you can harden your home and make it more fire resistant. Ways to start upgrading your home
Creating A Fire Resistant Landscape
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Houses with wooden or shingle roofs are at high risk of destruction during a fire.
The heat from a fire can cause windows to break before the house burns. This allows burning embers to enter and start a fire inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable.
Wood products such as boards, panels or shingles are common cladding materials. However, they are flammable and not a good choice for fire prone areas.
Cover the chimney and oven outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use a metal screen with holes no smaller than 3/8 inch and no larger than 1/2 inch to prevent embers from escaping and starting a fire.
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In case of fire, have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket and hose available.
The best practice is to separate the fence from your home or upgrade the last 5 feet of the fence to non-combustible material to reduce the chance of the fence bringing fire into your home.
Driveways should be constructed and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles access to your home. Consider maintaining driveways with a minimum clearance of 10 feet on either side, allowing for two-way traffic.
Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.
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*Flame-resistant building materials are those materials that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of fire-resistant materials include “non-combustible materials” that do not burn, fire-retardant-treated exterior wood, fire-retardant-treated wood shavings and shingles listed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM), and any material that has been tested in accordance with the SFM standard 12-7A-5. As Western gardeners, we have a unique set of decisions when choosing plants: drought tolerance, durability for our local climate, native pollinator benefits, and for many of us…
And that’s one of the many reasons Plant Select is so excited to partner with Idaho Firewise.
Idaho Firewise, Inc. is a Western non-profit organization that is a leader in wildland fire education. It helps Idaho residents and visitors reduce wildfire losses and understand how wildfire plays a role in ecosystems. It also cooperates to a large extent with other organizations in the field of education.
Boise’s Idaho Firewise Garden – the Official Plant Selection Demonstration Garden – is the largest and oldest of the Idaho Firewise garden network. The garden is adjacent to the Idaho Botanical Garden and the campus of the College of Western Idaho Horticulture Program.
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The garden was established in 2006 and opened to the public in 2008. It is home to more than 350 species of plants, including many Plant Select plants. Plants are strategically placed to demonstrate how best to incorporate plant material into the landscape with fire resistance in mind.
The garden features a variety of mulches (rock and organic) and plants to help homeowners plan their landscape for 3 fire landscape zones:
Zone 1 and Zone 2 are the most important zones to keep “lean, clean and green” around the house, especially during fire season.
The garden also serves as an ideal range of plants for those interested in water landscaping. Boise and many of the surrounding areas average only about 12 inches of rain per year – the driest and hottest time of the year, which coincides with wildfire season.
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The Idaho Firewise Demonstration Garden has used many Select plant species since the garden’s history because they fit so well with the needs of the Idaho landscape: hardy plants that (once established) can really handle harsh climates!
“We also like that many of the Plant Select plants are more compact or are ground cover species,” explains Andrea Dorman, horticulturist and SW Idaho program coordinator for Idaho Firewise.
“Less fuel for the fire, so to speak, which is great for landscaping for increased fire resistance.”
Andrea says that ice plants and stonecrop can work well in all areas of the landscape around the house, including zone 1. The other plants listed are usually suitable for zones 2 and 3.
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“AndDOG TUFF™ is amazing!” adds Andrea. “We’re proving it to be one of the most drought tolerant in the warm season available.”
However, Andrea warns, “A list of fire plants without context won’t help the homeowner very much. This is where fire principles and landscape zones come into play.’
Idaho Firewise has incorporated walkways throughout its garden using rock materials, and there is space between plant groups to act as buffers for potential ignition.
The goal is to slow the progress of a fire approaching the home if there are embers and nearby wildfires.
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If a landscape is fireproofed when installed, it doesn’t necessarily stay smart unless it’s actively maintained, says Andrea. A healthy landscape includes weeding, litter cleanup, and proper irrigation, especially during fire season.
If the plant dries out and is stressed, it is no longer considered fire-resistant. It should be cleaned, cut or removed depending on what is happening with that plant in that scenario.
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