Recent fires throughout Colorado attest to the destructive power of flammable brush and plant litter. The three key factors that contribute to fire danger are fuel, topography, and weather. Homeowners may not be able to do anything about the topography of their lot or the weather, but landscaping can be addressed. Although any plant and any home can burn given the right conditions, a properly designed and maintained landscape can greatly reduce the hazard. Creating a defensible space around your home will help minimize fire damage and provide space where fire fighters can defend against a fire.
Plants can best be kept from becoming tinder-dry by watering on a regular schedule. Drip irrigation is best for this since water goes directly to the plants and little is lost through evaporation. Deep watering encourages deeper roots and results in healthier plants. Healthy plants have less fuel to burn. Deep watering can also be accomplished through the “cycle and soak” method with traditional spray sprinklers. Run each zone for shorter run times, but add additional start times. Drought tolerant or xeric landscapes are still great methods to save water, and deep watering is best for these plant choices.
Pyrophytes are plants that are extremely flammable because of their high content of oils or resins. Good examples of prophetess include Gambel Oaks, Junipers, Yews, Spruces and Pines. These plants should not be planted or be allowed to grow within 15’ of the home or accessory structures.
Deciduous trees may be planted a minimum of 10’ from any structure with approval by CFSD. Deciduous plants are a good choice because of their higher moisture content. Trees need to be limbed up 10’ and should not overlap smaller trees or shrubs.
If your home is within the Hillside Overlay Zone within Colorado Springs, fire mitigation requirements are mandatory. Mitigation and the design of your landscape are equally important as the selection of plants and materials. ALC’s landscape architects can help with considerations such as:
• Create a defensible space, thinning vegetation as required and raking pine needles within the 30’ safety zone or to your property line, whichever comes first.
• Select diverse plant species with drought and fire resistant characteristics
• Incorporate landscape elements to break up fuel continuity
For complete information, please download a copy of the Ignition Resistant Construction Design Manual (https://csfd.coloradosprings.gov/sites/default/files/fire/images/hillside_design_manual_kms_061714.pdf), or call the CSFD Wildfire Mitigation Office (719) 385-7342 for on site consultations. For help with residential landscape design, call Kristin Heggem with ALC (719) 339-9393.
Author’s Bio: Kristin Heggem