Justin White, Landscaping Lessons | Part 2: Preparing for wildfire season – Santa Cruz Sentinel
This is part 2 of 4 in this series
In the last column, we covered the importance of creating a defensible space around your home for fire safety. Check out these examples of how you can comply with these safety guidelines and state laws on your property starting with Zone 0 (the newly designated) or otherwise known as the “Immediate Zone”.
A K&D Landscaping employee takes care of the weed control in the village of Aptos. (Contributed – Aaron Bowles, Bowles Photography)
Zone 0: With the passage of Assembly Bill 3074 in 2020, a “Zone 0” was created, which requires the Forestry and Fire Protection Committee to create a new regulation for a “Ember Prohibition Zone” that is within 0-5 feet of everyone located building or house by 2023. While there is still a lot to be clarified on AB 3074, there is already a lot of information on the area that we can use to proactively shape our fight for fire safety. While not yet required by law, science has shown that this zone is critical in defending a home against forest fires, largely because embers end up there and begin to catch fire.
This zone is easy to spot as it only extends 5 feet beyond your structure, but it is important to remember that it also encompasses your structure along with decks, patios and porches. Here are some ideas on how to harden this area of your property:
• If possible, remove all vegetation from this area, including any branches or twigs that have grown within 1.5 m of your building. In an ideal situation, you would not have vegetation within the 5 foot buffer zone.
• Remove all wood mulch and install rock mulch in its place. Cobblestone or decomposed granite can be a great look and come in many different colors to complement the color of your home.
• Use hardscape such as concrete, cobblestones or other non-flammable materials instead of typical landscape plants.
• Do not store firewood near your house as this can easily cause embers to ignite a flame.
• Install metal grills under all decks and overhangs. We saw during the recent CZU fire that strong winds would blow embers below deck so they could ignite; small metal screens can prevent this.
• Replace all wooden furniture with non-flammable metal furniture. Make sure that all combustible materials, especially gasoline cans, are kept away from the house or outbuilding.
• Always keep this area clean and free of debris, especially leaves and weeds, which can create a perfect environment for embers to catch fire.
• In this zone it can also be helpful to install retaining walls made of stone or concrete instead of retaining walls made of wood. If you have a wooden retaining wall that you cannot afford to replace, remember to line it with metal to prevent it from catching fire. Sheet metal can also work well on fences and other wooden structures.
• If possible, construct everything from metal or other non-combustible materials, including handrails on your deck and other structures. When you choose metal, not only will it last longer, but it will also make your home safer.
The biggest problems I keep seeing are leaves in the gutters or on the roof, branches hanging over roofs or touching the house, overgrown plants / weeds touching the house, and firewood or other flammable materials hanging on House to be stored. There are many things you can do to keep your home safe from wildfire. Make sure these actions are taken now rather than the last minute as you may not have time to prepare in the event of an emergency.
For example, some people might think that wooden furniture is not a problem because they can take it out of the house in the event of a fire, but you may not always have that time. Better to be over-prepared than under. Every property is different and offers additional challenges and opportunities to work with. Take the time to inspect your home today.
Look back for the next landscaping lesson Prepare for Wildfire Season, Part 3, which delves deeper into alternative options you can use in your landscaping and adjustments you can make for Zone 1 to increase fire safety .
Justin White is the CEO of K&D Landscaping, headquartered in Watsonville, California, and was named Business of the Year 2020 by the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce. White is also the current president of the local California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) on the central coast. He is involved in several nonprofit organizations across the community. For more information on landscaping, outdoor and gardening needs, please contact K&D Landscaping at kndlandscaping.com.