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Southern California Landscaping and Fire Protection

Summertime is here and with that can come dry temperatures, high heat, and increased chances of wildfire. In California, this can sometimes mean danger to businesses on the outlying areas of cities. Knowing this, it is important that we properly prepare our surroundings to protect the buildings in which we live and work. Through proper planning, it is possible to have both a beautiful landscape and a fire safe zone around your business or home.

Defensible space levels

When creating a defensible space around your business consider the concept of zoning which can help define what types of landscaping you should use depending on proximity to a building. There are three zones and cover the building itself and 100-200 feet around the structure. In areas across the country where the risk of wildfire is high, this zone, commonly called “the home ignition zone,” can actually extend up to 200 feet.

Zone 1

This first zone is closest to the building, and usually is the structure (including wooden decks, fences, and boardwalks) and will extend beyond the structure by at least 30 feet on all sides. In this area you will want to use the following guidelines:

  • Plants should be carefully spaced, low-growing and free of resins, oils and waxes that burn easily.

  • Keep the grass mowed and trees pruned on a regular basis. Note: trees should be pruned up six to ten feet from the ground.

  • Planting conifer trees, one should ensure there is 30 feet between the tree crowns, and trim back any trees that overhang the house.

  • Create a fire-free area within five feet of the home using non-flammable landscaping materials and/or high-moisture-content annuals and perennials.

  • Keep dead vegetation cleared, this includes keeping the area under decking and in gutters clear.

  • Consider xeriscaping to help with water conservation efforts.

Zone 2

Zone 2 is the area 30-100 feet from the building, plants in this area should be low-growing, well irrigated, and less flammable. In this are use the following tips:

  • Leave 30 feet between clusters of two or three trees, or 20 feet between individual trees.

  • Plant a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees.

  • Use “fuel breaks”, like driveways, gravel walkways, and lawns.

  • As in zone 1, prune trees up six to ten feet from the ground.

Zone 3

Zone three is 100 to 200 feet from the building and this area should be thinned, however less space is required than in Zone 2. Do keep in mind though, other factors like topography, the recommended distances to compensate for radiant heat exposure actually extend between 100 to 200 feet from a building – on a site-specific basis. In zone 3 you will want to do the following:

  • Remove smaller conifers that are growing between taller trees.

  • Remove heavy accumulation of woody debris.

  • Reduce the density of tall trees so canopies are not touching.

  • Selective Planting

Let us help

Pacific Vista Commercial Landscaping Services is knowledgeable in different types of landscaping and can help you create a fire-defensible space around your business. Whether planting colorful bushes and flowers, xeriscaping, or picking trees, we can help. We can help you select the type of plants that will work well in your environment. We can guide selection to provide beautiful landscaping while choosing drought tolerant and fire safe plants that can make any property sing. We can also create a custom landscape for your new building or home, or help redesign and help make the space around an existing building or home safe from potential wildfire. Whatever the need, give us a call!

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