Firewise Landscaping

The goal of Firewise landscaping is to create and maintain a safety zone around the home. This "defensible space" increases the likelihood that a home will survive a wildfire even in the absence of firefighters. 

Defensible space should extend outward from the home from 30 feet (minimum) to 100 - 200 feet if the home borders heavy wildland fuels. This area does not need to be devoid of shrubs and trees, but should be wisely landscaped with plants known to be less-flammable separated by walkways and grassed areas.

Defensible Space

  • Breaks up the continuity of vegetation that might otherwise bring fire from adjacent wildland to the structure.
  • Provides room for firefighters to safely work to defend a structure.
  • Helps prevent a structure fire from spreading to adjacent wildland areas.
Within the zone of defensible space, follow these guidelines:
  • Thin trees so that the crowns (tree tops) are 10 to 15 feet apart.
  • Remove any "ladder fuels". Ladder fuels are vines and shrubs that can carry a ground fire up into the treetops.
  • Remove dense fuels, trim overhanging branches, and carefully plan your landscaping within 30 feet of homes.
  • Prune tree limbs so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Remove any large groupings of plants like saw palmetto, yaupon, wax myrtle and gallberry, especially if the plants are close to the home, adjacent decks or porches or under eaves or overhangs.
  • Instead of flammable mulch like bark or wood chips, use lava stone or coarse gravel around any shrubbery that is within 5 feet of the structure. 
  • Remove highly flammable plants characterized by resinous sap and waxy leaves. These include: saw palmetto, wax myrtle, yaupon, red cedar, cypress and young pine trees.
  • Locate firewood and propane gas tanks at least 50 feet from the structure.
  • Keep 100 feet of hose readily available at a faucet away from the structure.
  • Select less-flammable plant species to plant within the zone of defensible space.

Less-Flammable Trees and Shrubs

Ash Magnolia Sweet Acacia
Citrus Maple Silver Button
Crape Myrtle Redbud Tabebuia
Dogwood Sycamore Gumbo-Limbo
Jacaranda Viburnum Red Mulberry
Loquat Winged Elm Red Bay
Oaks Citrus Green Button
Peach Plum Mahogany
Black Cherry Sweet Gum Satin Leaf
Sparkleberry Persimmon Pigeon Plum
Hophornbeam Blue Beech River Birch
Pecan Sea Grape Hawthorne
Willow Catalpa Elm
Pindo Palm Alexander Palm Sago Palm
Queen Palm Pygmy Date Palm King Sago Palm
Agave Philodendrom Century Plant
Aloe Pittosporum Coontie
Azalea Red Yucca Anise
Viburnum Beauty Berry Indian Hawthorne
Hydrangea Pyracantha Oakleaf Hydrangea
Oleander Camellia  

More-Flammable Trees and Shrubs

Pines Juniper Red Cedar
Italian Cypress Bald Cypress Arizona Cypress
Arborvitae Saw Palmetto Wax Myrtle
Pampas Grass Gallberry Cabbage Palm
American Holly Boxwood Melaleuca
Yaupon Holly Yew Leyland Cypress

The main idea is to create a less-flammable landscape that also meets the homeowner's needs. With a little planning, a landscape can be FIREWISE and also be aesthetically pleasing, provide food and cover for wildlife, require less water for irrigation and provide shade to cool the home and reduce energy bills.