Research by the National Fire Protection Agency around home destruction vs. survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the most common and frequent way that the majority of homes ignite in wildfires.
What is an Ember?
Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind. Embers can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris and other objects.
Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown homes ignite due to the condition of the home and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation. This is called the Home Ignition Zone (source: Firewise USA).
Homeowners can prepare their homes to withstand ember ignitions and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home or any other structures on the property.
What are Home Ignition Zones?
The Home Ignition Zone, or HIZ, was developed by retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990s, following breakthrough research into how homes ignite from effects of radiant heat. The HIZ is divided into three zones, Immediate, Intermediate, and Extended Zone.
What actions should Homeowners take to Reduce Ember Ignition in the Immediate Home Ignition Zone?
The home and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the home; defined as a non-combustible area, is the Immediate Zone. This is the most important zone to take immediate action on, as it’s the most vulnerable to embers. The following steps will help prevent embers from igniting your home:
- Clear leaves and debris from gutters and eaves.
- Remove dead vegetation and other items from under decks and porches, within 10′ of the home.
- Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent combustable debris from accumulating.
- Remove flammable materials (firewood, propane tanks, gas cans) within 30′ of the home’s foundation and outbuildings – including garages and sheds.
- Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10′ from the ground (wildfire can spread to tree tops).
- Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down! Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for fire!
- Think about switching to some Xeriscape, or more sustainable landscape options, to cut back on the amount of lawn exposed.
- Dispose of lawn debris and cuttings quickly. Don’t let those sit on your property!
- Replace or repair roof tiles that are loose or missing, to prevent ember penetration.
- Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent embers from entering.
What actions should Homeowners take in the Intermediate Home Ignition Zone?
5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the home, is considered the Intermediate Zone.
- Consider careful Landscaping and hardscaping installation, for example create breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior
- Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
- Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
- Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
- Remove vegetation under trees, sometimes called “ladder fuels” so a surface fire cannot reach the tree crowns.
- Prune trees up to 6 to 10′ from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
- Space trees to have a minimum of 18′ between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.
- Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity.
What actions should Homeowners take in the Extended Home Ignition zone?
30-100′ out to 200′ is the Extended Home Ignition zone.
- In regards to landscaping, the goal here is to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.
- Trees 30 to 60′ from the home should have at least 12′ between canopy tops.
- Trees 60 to 100′ from the home should have at least 6′ between the canopy tops.
- Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
- Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
- Remove deadwood (Visit Arbortek Trees’ helpful blog on how to remove deadwood safely).
Photo from Firewise USA
Thank you to Firewise USA for this valuable research and insight! If you have a large property and would like assistance with clean up of your defensible space and tree canopies, we are a phone call away. Now is the time to get proactive before wildfire danger arrives!
Proactive winter gardening and landscaping in the San Jose, Santa Clara, and surrounding Bay Area, California, requires taking care of gardening tasks that are of extreme importance to keep your annuals, perennials, biennials, and lawns, safe from winter damage.
We may have a mediterranean climate that isn’t exactly synonymous with winter plant protection that, for example, our neighbors to the north, midwest or northeast, will have to endure.
However, there are some very important winter landscaping tips for Bay Area residents that will save you a lot of money and headache if you take care of now.
We’ve culled our top 5 winter landscaping tip blogs (and some from our sister company, Arbortek Trees) to get you prepared. Ready, set, go!
1) Winter landscaping tip #1! Gutters are out of sight out of mind, but neglecting them is very costly. Read this blog to learn more on how to keep that spare holiday change in your pocket.
Clean Gutters Before They Clean Out Your Bank Account
2) Still pruning during frost season? Stop! We uncover when and what to prune during winter. Also, should plants be brought inside during a Bay Area winter? Get all the answers here.
Pruning During Frost Season? Stop!
3) Want beautiful, blooming, and bold roses next year? Winter pruning for roses is a separate set of instructions, and we break them down here:
Pruning 101: Step-By-Step Winter Rosebush Care
4) Brrr….It’s time to winterize trees. Dormant trees still need to be winterized to remain healthy. Have young trees? This blog is for you.
Brrrr…It’s About Time to Winterize Your Trees!
5) Got deadwood? Get it out of your yard before it’s a hazard to others. Determine which deadwood should be removed, and which should remain for important ecosystem development.
Why Removing Deadwood Is Worth Every Penny
That should do it, our “Best of” winter landscaping tips for the Bay Area! Time to get to work! Give Bayscape Landscape a call if you need help getting all of these winter gardening tasks into your busy schedule.
Hollywood actors often talk of “disappearing” into roles, where they aim for a performance so natural it looks effortless to those taking it in. They don’t want their method to be overly apparent, and it’s the same for many forms of art. It certainly applies to landscaping: you do want your garden to be enjoyed by visitors, but probably don’t want them noticing every cut on your freshly pruned bushes or shrubs. Like all artists, you’ll need to consider some fundamentals before your diligent shrub and bush pruning efforts are so well-executed that they appear … well, effortless.
- First, understand why pruning is healthy for the plant itself. Both natural styles and more formal topiary pruning can add beauty and visual interest to a landscape. Pruning gets rid of dead or injured branches and – whether using the more severe “heading back” method or “thinning”– allows more light into the inner canopy of the shrub and can encourage health and growth in the desired areas.
- Second, know that proper pruning is a safety measure for your home and property. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) says that “during the 2003 ranging California fires, a number of homes were saved as a result of the owner’s careful pruning and landscaping techniques that protected their homes.” The USFA offers many prevention tips on smart pruning for defensible space and a fire-safe landscape.
- Third, learn how to prune correctly. Understanding how to properly prune bushes or shrubs requires that you know or research a host of issues: the kinds of shrubs planted, which pruning method they best respond to, the natural form and shape of the plant itself, which tools to use (and whether they need to be sanitized between cuts), and when a shrub may need to be replanted in a better-suited location.
With some research and preparation, you can have beautiful, healthy shrubs that look like a million bucks. And if you need some guidance from a landscaping professional, contact us a call today!