Fire smart gardening is one way to protect your home from the wildfires that are now more and more common. Urban interface fires are the most dangerous for property damage, and for putting lives at risk.
Climate change is upon us – and one way it’s become obvious is that wildfires are no longer a random one time event; they’re becoming a common occurrence in many areas around the world.
California sees wildfires spurred by El Nino and the Santa Anna winds, Australia has bush fires raging out of control and into residential areas, and British Columbia has seen a huge jump in the numbers, and size of wildfires all over the province.
The problem is not just that humans like to build their homes in the beautiful woodlands and forests.
The logging practices of the past when wildfires were put out to protect the growing forests are coming back to haunt us.
Historically, harmless small fires going through young stands quickly came to a standstill after burning up the small fuels that had accumulated.
Then the practice started of putting out small forest fires, which meant that the next time fire started, either from lightening, or human carelessness, or worse, intent, the fire had much more fuel to burn, making the fire hotter, and much more dangerous as well as hard to extinguish.
Recently, with the climate changing to a warming trend, allowing the Mountain Pine Beetle and other pests to overwinter and spread, whole forests infested with these beetles are dying. This provides the perfect storm, just waiting for yet another dry summer and an ignition source, and the province goes up in flames.
Fire smart gardening techniques encourage each builder, gardener and landscaper to prevent these inevitable wildfires from coming too close to our homes. Here are a few ways to be pro-active:
Just because a plant is drought tolerant, it does not mean that they are not flammable.
Many drought smart strategies used by plants to prevent moisture loss create the exact conditions needed by fire to spread, such as; pitch or resinous sap, twiggy growth, or shedding or collection of dry needles, leaves or other detritus under drought conditions.
In terrible fires in California, fire smart gardening saved some homes by the use of succulent plants which prevented the fire from reaching the house, even though all around were destroyed.
The landscaping was not originally intended to be fire smart but the wise choice of succulent plants contributed to the safety of the house and its occupants.
Maple (Acer species)
Dogwood, Red-osier(Cornus sericea, C. stolonifera)
Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Yarrow (Achillea species)
Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)
Using some of these techniques and tips will help keep your home safe from wildfires – plant wisely, and be a fire smart gardener.
Thyme lawns or steps are drought resistant and tough enough for any environmental challenges.
It used to be that once in a while these kinds of plants would come to the fore, and successfully maneuver dry summers, but now it's obvious that these are the most suited to what is becoming the norm.
Seeing how beautiful these unique landscapes are and how well they perform in challenging conditions will encourage others to find unique plants to use in their own xeric garden.