logo: Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
logo: Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
Mobilizing the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires

Mobilizing the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires

Environment

Protecting our Environment - it's our Mission!

Educate your family to prevent wildfires and increase your home's chances of surviving a wildfire:

  • Smokey Bear teaches kids to prevent wildfires and protect the environment.
  • Creating and maintaining Defensible Space around your wildland area home mitigates losses from wildfire and protects forest life.
  • Reducing the size and number of wildfires, reduces the demand for water to fight them. Saving water during drought years is important.

Fire is a natural part of the environment. Yet in the first half of the 20th century forest management has suppressed wildfires, enough to significantly change the forest type and density and increase fuel buildup that can lead to uncontrollable wildfires. Additionally people have expanded development into green spaces and wildlands, which creates new fire management needs to protect lives and property.

While it is not clear how to manage wildfires to restore forests to centuries old fire patterns, environmentally sound techniques for managing a home's Defensible Space are well known. With so many of us now living on the boundaries of urban development and wildlands or open space, people must now do what fires used to accomplish. We must reduce fuel load around our homes manually so large, extremely hot, intense fires do not have the fuel they need to become catastrophic. SCFSC can help you accomplish this:

  • Work from the house structure out, rather than from the wildlands in: make sure embers cannot enter your home through doors, windows, vents or other gaps.
  • Learn the qualities of fire-resistant vs. highly combustible plants.
  • Many California native plants are highly resistant and tolerant of fire and recover quickly after a wildfire.
  • Many exotic species are invasive and possess weedy characteristics that make them highly combustible.
  • Some fire-resistant plant species are able to retain high moisture content in leaves and other tissues with very little irrigation.
  • Trim plants that are close to the house, but do not leave bare soil that can be quickly colonized by weedy annual plants that dry out and turn into fuel.

References for the above points are found in the Fremontia special issue: Native Plants and Fire Safety; these two articles in particular: Sustainable and Fire-Safe Landscapes: Achieving Wildfire Resistance and Environmental Health in the Wildland-Urban Interface and Fire-Resistant Landscaping: A General Approach and Central Coast Perspective.

More considerations when creating and maintaining your Defensible Space:

  • When reducing your hazardous fuel, help protect birds: don't destroy any active bird nests and don't work near any large active nests.  Do as much work as possible during non-breeding/nesting times.
  • Educate communities, including your neighbors: your Defensible Space could prevent your house from burning and generating sparks and fire that can spread to the wildlands and to your neighbors houses. Also, neighbors’ Defensible Space protects your home so other homes are not a path for spreading fire.
  • Plant maintenance in your Defensible Space includes irrigation to sustain moisture content in the dry season, making vegetation slower to ignite. Allow plants to have their natural dormancy during the dry season. If supplemental watering is desired during summer, it should be infrequent and light, mimicking the model set by nature.

Refer to the links within the article above, and references listed below, to help YOUR home survive the next wildland fire!

Defensible Space, Including Fire Safe Landscaping

Living with Fire in Santa Clara County and maintaining your 100’ of Defensible Space can be done even as we protect our environment. Following are more links to help us do just that.

Fremontia, Journal of California Native Plant Society, Volume 38, No. 2 and 3, April 2010 and July 2010 is a special issue: Native Plants and Fire Safety. A few of its articles referenced on this page. The full list of articles follows:

The above list of articles appears on the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) conservation resources page.

CNPS lists a library of information on fire and fuels management provided by the CNPS San Diego Chapter, including Landscaping in the Fire Zone in San Diego and California Native Plant Landscaping to Reduce Wildfire Risk.

California Department of Water Resources: How to Keep Trees Healthy all Season Long. How to save your most important landscape plants—your trees—when water is limited during a drought.

Sudden Oak Death

Sudden Oak Death is a tree disease that kills some oak species and has had devastating effects on forests in California including in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west side of Santa Clara County.  California Oak Mortality Task Force – Sudden Oak Death

Shannon Dinis: Sudden Oak Death

California Native Plants

California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter, promotes native plant appreciation, research, education and conservation. Its Gardening with Natives Group offers:

  • California native plant gardening Q & A;
  • Live talks on native plant gardening topics such as replacing your lawn, weeding techniques, and plant propagation.

Environmental Regeneration

Shannon Dinis: Lick Fire Regeneration

Lists of Fire Safe Plants

Pacific Horticulture: Fire-Safe Landscaping Favorites. Includes many California native plants, best since they are already adapted to our dry summers. Overview of fire-safe principles for homeowners living in the wildland-urban interface, including example landscaping photos and ideas for summer color. Note: we don’t recommend planting ice plant because it is an exotic, invasive species and our park systems (especially beaches) are spending time and money for its removal.

Sunset Magazine: Five Great Firefighting Plants. Includes “zone defense” diagram for creating a fire-smart landscape. Again: we don’t recommend planting ice plant.

Wikia: Fire Safe Plants. A list with photos and names.

CAL FIRE: Fire-Resistant Landscaping. Easy to understand guidelines and 10 recommended plants with common names and pictures. Again, we don't recommend planting ice plant. The red monkey flower depicted is Diplacus puniceus. The sidebar lists other references oriented towards the chaparral plant communities and steep slopes of Southern California, including a list of Fire-Resistant California-Friendly Plants including trees, and from that page, a 50 page well-illustrated booklet entitled A Homeowner's Guide To Fire And Watershed Management - At The Chaparral/Urban Interface.

 

Defensible Space diagram showing near to house Lean, Clean and Green Zone and farther from house Reduced Fuel Zone

100' Defensible Space


Cover: Living With Fire in Santa Clara County

Living With Fire in Santa Clara County: A guide for homeowners


shaded fuel break - Fremontia Fire issue page 23

Shaded fuel break on federal land next to private parcel. This homeowner lost his fire insurance until the FireSafe Council was able to get permission from the USFS to complete the thinning.


stand of chaparral that has been thinned - Fremontia Fire issue page 53

These two photos depict the before and after condition of a stand of chaparral that has been thinned to roughly 50% canopy coverage. Debris has been chipped and replaced on site as a mulch to help prevent weed germination in the open areas. This area is now much more fire-resistant without resorting to clearing it entirely of native vegetation.


Cover of Fremontia Magazine's Special Fire Issue

CNPS Fremontia Special Issue - Native Plants and Fire Safety


Diplacus punceus discribed at LasPilitas.com Mimulus aurantiacus described at Sunset Magazine article: Five Great Firefighting Plants Mimulus aurantiacus described at S&S Seeds

Monkeyflowers, both red-flowered Diplacus puniceus and orange-flowered Mimulus aurantiacus, are evergreen shrubs that are fire-resistant, drought tolerant California native plants.

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Santa Clara County FireSafe Council

2053 Lincoln Avenue, Suite B
San Jose, CA 95125
Telephone: (408) 975-9591
Fax: (408) 624-9316

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