|What's wrong with this picture!|
Muhlenbergia rigens, deer grass, is not the best choice of plant
next to a building in a fire prone area of California.
(The fences adjoining the greenhouse are also problematic. But that's not the topic of this post.)
Since my last post (Fire and Chaparral - Some Questions) I've been doing some reading, hand wringing, and hacking at defenseless plants--the ones in obviously wrong places such as slap up against a structure.
|Digging out the grasses!|
|Even succulents (these are non-natives, btw) can get woody and out of hand if not tended! |
I'm in the process of removing or cutting back all of these,
and rethinking the bed.
BTW, I'm only addressing issues related to vegetation in this blog. Our house itself has lots of issues and we know this.
Some AnswersI'm far from being an expert, so let me introduce you to some resources I've found useful in learning about fire safety in a fire prone wild area.
CNPS publication: Native Plants and Fire Safety (PDF)
This issue of the CNPS journal Fremontia is so good. Not all articles are directly relevant to the questions I have as a home owner on a ridge, you'll see that for yourself, but all are excellent. BTW, the article, "Fire-Resistant Landscaping: A General Approach and Central Coast Perspective" was written by a member of our Santa Cruz County chapter of CNPS, landscape designer and botanist Suzanne Schettler.
Also BTW - CNPS provides a fire recovery guide - what to do after fire, as regards native habitat recovery. One main point: let nature recover naturally!
California Chaparral Institute
As I have mentioned in other posts, a big swathe of chaparral lies below our home. I love the chaparral ecosystem. So does Richard Halsey, the founder of the California Chaparral Institute. He's a staunch advocate, and also a realist. He provides boatloads of information about chaparral -- and he challenges ill-informed advice with science-based truths. He stresses that "We must look at the problem from the house outward, rather than from the wildland in". In his 1/12/18 letter to Gavin Newsom, governor of California, Halsey also says:
Homes burn because they are flammable and are built on fire-prone landscapes. Most structures ignite during wildfires because of flying embers that can travel a mile or more from the fire front. This is why so many families have lost their homes even though they have complied with defensible space regulations – their homes were still vulnerable to embers.
The traditional focus incorrectly sees nature only as “fuel.” Eliminate the “fuel,” the thinking goes, and we can control the fires. This misguided emphasis on fuel has become so powerful that some mistakenly view all of our forests, native shrublands, and even grasslands as “overgrown” tangles ready to ignite, instead of valuable natural resources. This focus is failing us.The idea of flying embers is not particularly reassuring I have to say, or motivating, as far as creating a defensible zone. Though of course for other fire situations, having a low fuel load around your home, etc., really is important.
Here are a few particularly relevant links from the CCI site well worth the read:
- Chaparral Fires - an overview, with links.
- Fire and People - this page also has links to relevant pages, such as Protecting your Home.
- Other insightful and helpful pages include Fire and Nature and Chaparral Myths.
- Also Halsey's book, Fire, Chaparral and Survival in Southern California is very worthwhile.
Las Pilitas Nursery: Landscaping Your Home In a Fire Area
I've talked before about native plant nurseryman and volunteer firefighter Bert Wilson's terrifically informative web site (and plant buying guide). In the section I link to, he talks about good hygiene (clearing dead stuff, use of mulch and so on), the amazing effect of watering native plants just a little, and gives a deluge of other practical tips.
Be sure to visit Bert's leaf burn times page, too. It's really an eye opener. How long it takes leaves of different species to ignite under the same experimental conditions.
Sierra Foothill Garden blog, Fire and Manzanita Myths post
This informative post on the Sierra Foothill Garden blog addresses the myth of the fire-proof plant, as well as the one about how all chaparral plants are oozing resins and oils. I'm so glad to know that manzanitas are not considered highly flammable - in fact they make some fire resistant plant lists - along with ceanothus, monkey flower, California wild fuchsia and others. In another post I hope to focus on fire resistant plants.
Other resources? I'm sure there are other great resources about fire and wilderness living. Perhaps you, kind reader, will be able to provide a comment with a pointer.