In another month or so, fire restrictions go into effect. Usually reserved for the middle of June, it will begin on June 1 of this year.
The standing joke about the seasons in the valley is: we only have two, Christmas, and The Fourth of July! After last summers smoke many wonder if this summer will be any different. Last year we really lucked out. There were about 250 lighting strikes in the middle of July that all started fires, and guess what? We had absolutely NO wind for the next 3 months. I traveled south on I-5 and highway 20 in California earlier this year and saw the devastation first hand, it wasn’t pretty.
It wasn’t just grass and trees that went up but literally everything in the windpath of the fires. Cinder block car washes with metal roofs were destroyed along with stick built structures. When you need to get a fire going you blow on it, and when it gets roaring, it makes its own wind.
While you can’t fireproof your landscaping, you can minimize the potential for fire damage by careful planning. The only thing that can run up a hill faster than down is fire. If the normal prevailing winds out of the west/northwest blow up a canyon down hill from your house, additional attention should be given to this area.
While I won’t recommend you make your landscaping fireproof, there are some plants you should not have right up next to your house. Resinous trees like Juniper, Arborvitae, Cypress, (especially Leyland) go up very fast and a load of dead twigs and needles start with the smallest of embers on a hot dry day. Try to keep them free of an accumulation of dead material on the inside, and keeping the canopy off the ground and exterior walls is a good start.1/8″ metal mesh on attic vents is a must-do also.
Having a decent size storage tank of 1500 gallons of water and a portable gas powered pump with a hose reel can come in handy and a hot tub or portable above ground pool can give you a fighting chance to extinguish small fires if you catch them in time. Providing space between plants and between plantings and structures is probably the most important consideration before installation of any new landscaping. We live in a landscape shaped primarily by fire in Ashland, and don’t really give it much thought during the winter months. Once the dreaded “chainsaw restrictions” go into effect, the amount of time we can run equipment diminishes rapidly. If you can’t get it done this year, plan early for next year as the window closes faster than you think. Have a great summer; it looks to be a long one…