OPINION: WISE landscaping brings fire, infrastructure safety | Free


Landscaping tips are provided in home ignition zones to prevent forest fires from spreading. However, supply infrastructures such as power lines and transformers must also be cleared, regardless of which zone they land in.

Do you want your home and property to be safer and more efficient? This is part of a four-part series from Okanogan County PUD on WISE (water, infrastructure, safety, efficiency) landscaping around your home. In this first part we will look at security related to forest fires and utility infrastructure.

The “house ignition zone” maps show three zones to watch out for in your home, with landscaping options having a major impact on the risk of forest fire.

Zone 1 is the area up to five feet from your home where you want to avoid flammable objects. Recommended plants should be herbaceous – high moisture content and leafy – not coniferous – wood, oily or with sticky sap. Whichever plants you use, keep them low to the ground and spaced from each other to prevent fire from spreading if they ignite. Many people use combustible bark mulch in flower beds against a house, but a fireproof option would be rock or hardscaping like pavement.

If you could use it to make a campfire, generally keep it outside of Zone 1.

Zone 2 puts you five to 30 feet from your home. Focus on small to medium-sized plants, as well as lawn, refractory rock, or hardscaping. Whatever you plant, keeping it low and spaced apart will prevent fire from spreading.

Zone 3, 30 to 100 feet from your home, is ideal for planting larger trees and shrubs. However, it is important that you do not plant too close together and that you choose refractory options whenever possible. You’ll also need to get rid of dead fuel material as part of seasonal maintenance (we’ll talk more about maintenance in Part 4 of the series).

There are many other factors that need to be considered. So if you would like an evaluation of your home, contact the Okanogan Conservation District (www.okanogancd.org). You can also sign up for Wildfire Ready Neighbors through the Department of Natural Resources at www.wildfireready.dnr.wa.gov.

But whichever zone you plant trees in, pay attention to the supply infrastructure. Before planting trees, make sure the adult plant stays at least 3 m away from overhead lines as it grows. Otherwise, the trees could grow right into the lines and cause a fire. Keep all plants more than 10 feet from power poles where they can be a fire hazard.

If you have a pad mount transformer on your property – green electrical boxes on a cement slab – please keep it away from plants or other objects. If possible, keep 10 feet of space on all sides, especially the front, to prevent anything from growing in and causing problems. Utility workers need easy access to them for maintenance. Fencing the transformer is fine with the correct spacing, as long as it can open up at the front of the box for access. Don’t paint or put anything on your transformer – it’s best to keep it clear.

Before you start digging to plant a tree or new garden bed, call 811 two days before digging! It’s a free service and public utilities mark their underground infrastructure for you. Further information is available at www.digsafewa.com.

That’s a quick look at fire and infrastructure security, but what else can we do? Let’s talk more about efficiency in the second part of our WISE landscaping series. Check out our videos and more on our website www.okanoganpud.org or on our Facebook page.

This article was submitted by Kim Johnson and Sheila Corson of the Okanogan County Public Utility District

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