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Image by Julian Hochgesang

In 2019, the CZU August Lightning Complex fire in Santa Cruz County raged through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the oldest state park in California.  It was a wake-up call:  even the foggy coast is prone  to wildfires. The blaze burned to the beach. Flying embers can ignite dry mulch and landscaping, drawing fires closer to homes.  Select landscape plants that will slow the spread of fire and create defensible space around your home.

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Maintenance is the most important factor in creating a defensible space around your home.  All woody and dry plants must be trimmed or removed to reduce the potential for fire. Avoid wood bark that can dry and become flammable.  

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There are no "fire-proof" plants, but plants with thick leaves and a high moisture content will tend to wither and wilt in a fire, rather than burn.  Succulents are beautiful, drought-tolerant, and slow the burn.

Avoid plants with resin like Pines, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary - Resinous plants can ignite in a fire. For trees plant hardwoods.

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Create fire-resistant zones with stone walls, patios decks and roadways. Use ground covers around the home that won't ignite from flying embers. Rock is a decorative ground cover that is easily "swept"with a leaf blower to remove dry debris.  Beneath the rock use a nonflammable weed block to reduce maintenance.  Nylon or plastic weedblocks melt in heat, and do not cause fire to spread.

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MAINTANENCE

Maintenance is the most important factor in creating a defensible space around your home.  

All woody and dry plants must be trimmed or removed to reduce the potential for fire.

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GROUND COVER

Use ground covers around the home that won't ignite from flying embers.

 

Avoid wood bark that can dry and become flammable.  Rock is a decorative ground cover that is easily maintained and beneath use a nylon or other non-flammable weed block.  Nylon or plastic weedblocks that melt in heat do not cause fire to spread.
 

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FIRE-RESISTANT ZONES

Create fire-resistant zones with stone walls, patios decks and roadways.

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SAFER PLANTS

There are no "fire-proof" plants, but plants with thick leaves and a high moisture content will tend to wither and wilt in a fire, rather than burn.
 
Choose plants like Aloes, ice plants and other succulents to slow the burn.

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PLANTS TO AVOID

Avoid plants with resin: 
Pines, Eucalyptus, Rosemary 

These are some examples of plants that have sap that can ignite in a fire.

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FIRE-RESISTANT ZONES

For trees plant hardwoods 
(Popular, Cherry and Maple)

Avoid softwoods that are more flammable (PInes and other conifers).