Firescaping: Prepare Your Yard For Brush Fire Season!

by / 0 Comments / 426 View / June 19, 2014

Prepare your yard for brush fire season!

In dry, drought-stricken California, fire season is year-round.


Yearly brush clearance notifications are sometimes met with the same dismissive attitude as many have towards a jury duty summons.

A false confidence that no one will notice a lack of response or compliance drives some homeowners to inactivity.


We shouldn't take brush clearance orders lightly!

If we don't prepare our yards for brush fire season, we will bear the consequences that an unexpected fire can cause.

Not only are we putting our home and life at risk, we are endangering the safety of our community.



Check out this map, dated as of the day that I write this blog post showing all the reported brush fires active today-  from Global Incident Map Displaying Forest Fires.


Extreme Fire Risk Areas

If you live in a hillside area you may be at specific risk for brush fires because of the density of plants and other geological factors.


Homes located near hillsides or urban wild land corridors are more vulnerable to brush fires because of dense plant life that can burn and spread fires quickly.

"Fire Triangle"

  • In summer, hot temperatures cause plants to dry, making them an ideal kindling, or fuel, for a fire to spread. 
  • Fuel is one of three necessary ingredients to create a fire. The other two are oxygen and heat.
  • These three elements form the "Fire Triangle," which is a simple way to understand the factors that make a fire.

If one of the three necessary ingredients are missing from the Fire Triangle, a fire is impossible to sustain.


There is very little we can do to control heat and oxygen factors; this is nature's domain.

Fuel is the only factor that we can control to a limited degree by maintaining a "firescape," or fire-resistant landscape.

The fuel comes from our plants and other materials in our yards, after all.


At a very minimum, by complying with brush clearance ordinances, we may be able to slow down or thwart flames headed toward our homes.



How a Brush Fire Spreads on Hillsides

When dry brush catches fire, it not only burns, it creates its own environment that is conducive to spreading fire. 


  • A burning plant pre-heats the other plants that are near it, causing them to become dry and hot.
  • The burning plant also creates energy, in the form of its own wind, which spreads embers onto nearby plants.
  • These plants catch fire, and in turn continue to pre-heat other plants around them as the fire continues to grow and spread.


When plants are closely spaced to each other, it's easy for the fire to spread by using each plant as a "fire ladder" to make its way up a tree canopy and move towards your home.


Create a Defensible Space in Your Landscape

Defensible space is needed to slow or stop the spread of a wildfire and it protects your home from catching fire.

Native plants and trees (the ones that grow naturally in your area and that you didn't plant) are usually the focus of brush clearance, but may include others you planted.



defensible-space-diagram from shows spacing of plants and trees and other materials in high fire risk areas


Maintain a minimum of 30 feet of defensible space or buffer zone between any building on your property and the hillside or dense planting area that can bring fire to your house.

This is the amount of defensible space required in my neighborhood.

Yours may be different.


Buffer zone spacing is based on your specific fire risk area, the grade of hillside slope and other physical factors.

Check your local fire station for specific requirements.

Some areas require a 100-foot defensible space.


Firescaping "Do's"

Prune tree limbs so that they are 10 feet away from your roof or walls.

Trim the bottom branches of trees on your hillside and near your home 6 feet from the ground so that lower plants don't touch them and create a fire ladder.

Space tree crowns at least 10 feet apart so that they don't touch.


Remove dead wood and liter from your landscape plants.

Plant fire-resistant* plants near your house to delay the spread of fire to the house.

Remove pine needles and leaves from the roof and rain gutters.

Remove wood shake roof which is highly flammable and install composition shingle, tile or other less combustible roofing material.

Keep firewood at least 50 feet away from structures.

         *Fire resistant plants are typically drought tolerant, slow growing, low maintenance, and store water in leaves and stems.
          No plant is fireproof.
          Check your local fire department for a list of plants for your area.

Firescaping "Don'ts"

  1. Don't allow plants and trees near your house to dry during severe heat waves. Keep them hydrated!
  2. Don't plant pine trees, Cypress, junipers, Eucalyptus trees or other resinous plants within 30 feet of your structure- they are highly flammable!
  3. Don't use rubber mulch in garden beds near the house because it is flammable.
  4. Don't allow wood bark or mulch to become dry during hot days- keep moist.




For more information about firescaping or preparing your yard for brush fire season, contact your local fire department.

Keep your landscape in compliance to mitigate fire damage.



Shirley explains firescaping do's and don'ts to Mark Steines and Cristina Ferrare on the Home & Family Show.



Shirley Bovshow prunes a pepper tree during the firescaping segment on the Home & Family Show on the Hallmark Channel.


Do you have any questions about preparing your yard for brush fire season?



















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