Fire is powerful, consuming, and terrifying—quite literally, a force of nature.
The devastating fires in 2017 were a wake-up call to assess vulnerable landscapes and do what we can to fireproof our gardens, and in turn provide a measure of protection to homes and property. Here at Pacific Horticulture, we’ve compiled a roundup of digital resources for gardeners facing recovery as well as anyone interested in creating a resilient, fire-safe landscape in a dry region. From design consultation to learning opportunities, the horticultural community is responding to tragic loss with practical and creative ideas.
“If we go into this with a mindset that we’re not going to stop all of these fires, but that we’re going to build a state that is resilient to the recovery and resistant to when they do occur, and we build that into our mindset and start taking actions, we can make real progress.” – CAL FIRE Chief, Ken Pimlott
By Ezra David Romero, Capitol Public Radio, Sacramento 12/11/2017
“As University of Colorado geographer Gregory Simon has observed, since we are choosing to spread cities farther and farther out into wildland areas, we need to recognize that fire disasters aren’t natural, they’re social. And they require social solutions.”
By Richard Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute, Los Angeles Times 12/7/2017
“Choosing appropriate plants for a fire-prone landscape, strategically siting and pruning plants, minimizing dry fuels such as grass, and adequately watering plants can have an effect on how landscapes behave in the event of a fire.”
By Kate Frey, Press Democrat, 11/9/2017
Tips on creating a fire-resistant landscape From the American Garden School
“Fire-resistant landscapes both use plants that have low flammability, and cite them strategically so as to reduce the amount of fuels (vegetation) that could ignite structures or carry flame across the landscape.”
American Garden School will be offering class on Creating a Fire-Safe Landscape at Cornerstone Sonoma on 4/8/2018; to be repeated in the fall of 2018. More information at https://americangardenschool.com.
Sustainable and Fire Safe Landscapes:
Wildland Fire Safety Starts in the Home
Includes a series of online articles, Fire Safe fact sheets, and a download of the Southern California SAFE Landscapes Guidebook.
From University of California Cooperative Extension.
Gary Ferguson is a nature and science writer whose work can be found at wildwords.net. He describes much of his work as “breaking down the walls that exist between the natural world and the human psyche.” Gary’s most recent book Land on Fire, The New Reality of Wildfire in the West, out now from Timber Press is a collection of scientific lectures about wildfire, which at their best serve as a window into the larger issue of our relationship to the natural world.
By Jennifer Jewell, host and creator of Cultivating Place
“We must build more resilient, less vulnerable communities, and adopt fire-wise landscaping practices in the wildland-urban interface. And we must come to terms with these issues if we are to survive. Land on Fire is a valuable read.”
Land on Fire, reviewed by Mary Ann Newcomer garden designer/communicator and radio host at 94.9, The River, Boise, Idaho.
Firescaping: Creating Fire-resistant Landscapes, gardens, and properties in California’s diverse environment, by Douglas Kent, Wilderness Press, 2005
In addition to Firescaping, Doug has written pre- and post-fire articles for Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, MarinScope Newspapers, Marin Independent Journal, and Sonoma Press Democrat and produced educational program materials for agencies throughout the denser parts of California, including FireSafe Santa Barbara, Marin and San Luis Obispo, Las Virgenes Water District, Oakland Wildfire Prevention District, Orange County Coastkeepers, Rincon Water District, and Tahoe Lakefront Homeowners Association.
Doug is available to provide fire and erosion risk analysis, landscape readiness analysis, and landscape design services to individuals and organizations throughout California.
Ecological Land Management
Douglas Kent MS, MLA ASLA
“Fire is as much a part of the Western landscape as oaks on a golden hillside or waves foaming at the rocky shore. Fire has dictated the distribution of the native landscapes that we so love, and molded the evolution of our most distinctive species, from the frothy blue blossoms of ceanothus to the thick, fibrous-barked redwood. But now, when fire ranges freely through the landscape, our homes and communities lay in its path, and disaster often results. Carefully planned gardens can, however, help defend our homes when fire approaches.”
By Dave Egbert, Pacific Horticulture, Spring 2009
“Fire safety at home has become a hot topic for rural and suburban gardeners as the number of homes destroyed by raging wildfires has increased. Buildings in the wildland/urban interface—that space where nature is pushed aside to make way for people—are especially vulnerable if fire safety is not factored in at every stage of planning and development.”
by Dave Egbert, Pacific Horticulture, Fall 2012
And the companion piece: The Fire-Safe Cottage Garden Resource Guide
“Trees in the fire-safe landscape are often looked upon as the bad guys. Dramatic news videos show forests ablaze, with flames consuming massive trees in seconds. Fire safety campaigns talk about cutting, removal, and clearance. Even firefighters are trained to drop trees, cut fire lines, and remove natives. Yet, trees are a vital part of both the fire-safe landscape and the sustainable neighborhood, providing habitat for wildlife, shade for our homes and outdoor living spaces, and food for our families.”
By Dave Egbert, Pacific Horticulture, Winter 2010
“While there are no guarantees that homes and gardens can be made completely safe from a conflagration, …much can be done at both the site and community level to reduce fire hazard. Two basic principles guide the creation of a fire safe landscape: the reduction of fuel and the interruption of a fire’s path to create a “defensible space.”
By Russell Beatty, Pacific Horticulture, Summer 2004
First Person: After the Fire
Last January, Pacific Horticulture member Jacqui Bally emailed me to express gratitude for the inspiration and resources she gathered while attending several past PHS programs in both San Diego County (date) and Santa Barbara (date). “In particular, the Santa Barbara/Montecito tour was excellent in helping me make informed fire safe choices for my half-acre garden.”
The Thomas fire devastated Ventura County including the home of Jo O’Connell and Brian Cox, owners of Australian Native Plants nursery in Casitas Springs, California. Jo and Brian are long time PHS members and loyal advertisers in our magazine.
Landscaping for Bushfire
Fire is indiscriminate and there’s much we can learn from one another’s experience. A Pacific Horticulture member in Victoria, Australia sent this link to Landscaping for Bushfire, a publication that was developed by the Victorian Country Fire Authority.
“Even though all plants burn, measures can be taken to reduce fire intensity from garden plants. This guide identifies what you can do within defendable space to minimise the risk of losing your house or threatening the lives of occupants in a bushfire.”