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Firewise Landscaping Helps Homes Survive Wildfires

Post Date:03/14/2019 4:00 PM

Firewise Landscaping Helps Homes Survive Wildfires

As we enter the peak of wildfire season in Southwest Florida (January through July), residents are reminded to properly prepare and maintain their properties. Residents should have an evacuation plan, make any necessary roof repairs, and clear a 30-foot defensible space around homes and other structures.

The "defensible space,” a safety zone around the structure, increases the likelihood that a home will survive a wildfire even in the absence of firefighters.

Defensible space should extend outward from the home at minimum of 30 feet; 100 to 200 feet if the home borders heavy wildland fire 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.

A defensible space breaks up the continuity of vegetation that might otherwise bring fire from an adjacent wildland to the structure. It provides room for firefighters to safely work to defend a structure and 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 six to 10 feet from the ground.
• Remove any large groupings of plants like saw palmetto, yaupon, wax myrtle and gall berry, 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 five 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.

For more information, visit and click on Florida Forest Service.


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