Bay-Friendly Blog: Wildfire Season Is Here–Are You Prepared?

The following is a posting from the Bay-Friendly Blog. You may find the original posting here.

Defensible space is the area around your home that has been modified to reduce the effects of wildfire. The following actions can help turn your yard into a defensible space:

  • Cutting annual grasses within 30-100’ of your home.
  • Pruning all tree branches a minimum of 10 feet off the ground, and at least 10 feet away from roof lines, decks and chimneys.
  • Breaking up fuel continuity by creating islands of vegetation and removing flammable materials between them.
  • Removing highly flammable vegetation such as juniper, bamboo, scotch broom and eucalyptus. Not only do these plants create intense fires, they produce embers that can travel long distances and start new spot fires.
  • Flammable plants should be removed and replaced with fire resistant, drought tolerant plants.

The City of Mill Valley recently constructed a fire resistive/defensible space garden near its public safety building. Here is a plant list from the project:

  • Agave Attenuata – Fox Tail Agave
  • Campanula Portenschlagiana – Bellflower
  • Cercis Occidentalis – Western Redbud
  • Cistus Salvifolius ‘Prostratus’ – Rock Rose
  • Correa Reflexa ‘Cape Green’ – Cape Green Fuchsia
  • Erigeron X Moerheimi – Pink Santa Barbara Daisy
  • Eschscholzia Californica – California Poppy
  • Festuca Glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ – Elijah Blue Fescue
  • Lavandula ‘Provence’ – French Lavender
  • Limonium Perezii – Sea Lavender
  • Olea Europaea – European Olive
  • Mimulus Aurantiacus – Sticky Monkey Flower
  • Nepeta Faassenii ‘Walkers Low’ – Cat Mint
  • Penstemon Heterophyllus – Foothill Penstemon
  • Phormium Tenax ‘Dusky Chief’ – New Zealand Flax ‘Dusky Chief’
  • Phormium ‘Tiny Tiger’ – Tiny Tiger Flax
  • Salvia Apiana – White Sage
  • Thymus Serpyllum – Creeping Thyme
  • Verbena Bonariensis – Purpletop Vervain

Home Wildfire Protection

In addition to creating a defensible space in your yard around your home, it is also important to evaluate the fire safety of your house itself. An ember from a wildfire can drop into your gutter, under the deck or in a dry potted plant that can start a fire and threaten your house. The following actions can help protect your home:

  • Make sure your street address is clearly visible from the street.
  • Install a spark arrester on your chimney to prevent embers from leaving your chimney.
  • Remove the dead needles and debris from your gutters.
  • Clear storage and clutter from under your decks and up against your house.
  • Remove dead or dry potted plants from around your house.
  • Patio cushions and other storage on a deck or patio pose a threat if an ember was to drop on them.

You can never be 100% safe from the risk of a wildfire, but if you take the actions listed above you will significantly improve the fire safety of your home.

-Scott Barnes, Mill Valley Fire Department

Scott Barnes is the Battalion Chief-Operations of the Mill Valley Fire Department and works to educate the public about fire safety.

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