Texas Plants that Help Prevent Wildfires
published on July 5, 2012
Austin suffered several wildfires last year, with the largest outbreaks in Steiner Ranch and Bastrop. The air is still dry this year, but homeowners can help minimize their risk of fire damage by making smart landscaping decisions that won’t help feed a fire should flames break out nearby. Fires may seem more likely close to hill country neighborhoods like River Place, but in reality, a fire can happen anywhere, even suburban neighborhoods like Milwood. Appropriate landscapes can make a significant contribution toward a home’s survival during a fire.
Known as firescaping, this landscape design reduces the vulnerability of a house and property to wildfire. The goal of firescaping is to develop a landscape with plants that offer the best defensible, survivable space that reduces the threat of wildfire while enhancing the property.
When selecting vegetation for a home in firescaping, plant selection is determined by a plant’s ability to reduce a wildfire threat. Minimizing the use of evergreen shrubs and trees like junipers, conifers, and broadleaf evergreens within 30 feet of a structure can decrease vulnerability to fire, since evergreens contain oils, resins, and waxes that make the plants burn quickly and hot. Ornamental grasses and berries also can be highly flammable.
Fire-smart plants are low-growing with high moisture content, and the stems and leaves are not resinous, oily, or waxy. Deciduous trees are generally more fire resistant than evergreens because they have a higher moisture content when in leaf and a lower fuel volume when dormant, and they typically do not contain flammable oils. Moisture-retaining succulents also can be good choices for fire-smart landscaping.
The placement and maintenance of trees and shrubs is equally important as which plants are selected. When placing trees in a landscape, remember the tree’s size at maturity and keep tree limbs at least 15 feet from chimneys, power lines, and structures, and always keep foliage properly pruned and irrigated. An Austin Realtor can help determine what measures need to be taken to protect a home from potential fire damage in the event of an emergency.
Grasses, groundcovers, vines, perennials and annuals that will help deter or lessen the spread of wildfire include: African Daisy, Black-Eyed Susan, Iris, Ivy, Thyme, Yucca, Poppy, Lavender, Red Hot Poker, Clematis, and Coral Bells. Trees and shrubs that are less likely to fuel a spreading fire include Oleander, Lilac, Jasmine, Poplar, Oak, Plum, Peach, Maple, Elm, Ash, Birch, and Cherry.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service offers a long list of plants that are beneficial for firescaping.
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