Master Gardener: Is my yard fire resistant?
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
For several years, I have focused on growing native plants and creating optimal habitats for pollinators and other wild creatures.
Native shrubs and trees have sprouted and grown on their own, plants have overwintered at their full height (and cut back in the spring), and areas have been left in their natural state, creating spots for animal homes in fallen trees and leaf litter.
However, seeing the glow from my neighborhood of the Middle Fork fire last fall and from my window of the Muddy Slide fire last week, I think it is time to change my focus to fire-resistant landscaping.
The Steamboat Pilot’ & Today’s article last week by Carolina Manriquez showcased a guide to help homeowners prepare their property for wildfire. The 2021 guide provides detailed information about protecting your home and creating a defensible space that is fire resistant and allows firefighters easy access your home if necessary.
I found the guide to be comprehensive and conducted a preliminary examination of my yard by zone. I plan to reexamine my findings regularly and take the necessary steps to maintain a fire resistant environment.
• Zone 1: Up to 5 feet from the house. In my yard, Zone 1 consists mostly small rocks, concrete and an asphalt driveway, and allows for easy access to the house. No flammable material (firewood, shrubs, plant debris) is in this zone except for a climbing shrub. For now, it will be kept pruned and well watered to reduce the fire risk.
• Zone 2: 5 to 30 feet from the house. In this area, I have grass, a few shrubs, a small aspen tree, a few oak tree sprouts and flowerbeds with a variety of mostly native plants. The grass is kept mowed to 3 inches, and dead leaves and branches are removed regularly. I may need to cut back my flowers in the fall, eliminating winter food and shelter for wildlife but also eliminating fuel if our dry conditions persist.
• Zone 3: 30 to 100 feet from the house. Native trees and shrubs are flourishing in this part of my yard. I have created a small pile of dead branches for wildlife habitat, which is OK in this zone, but some fallen trees may need to be removed, along with existing dead or dying vegetation. I may also need to consider thinning the shrubs that could become ladder fuels.
I encourage every homeowner to read the guide and evaluate their yards for fire resistance. Additional information may be found in the following documents:
Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.
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