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 varied native landscape 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. But carefully planned gardens can help defend our homes when fire approaches.
The idea of a fire-safe landscape does not have to run counter to that of an aesthetically pleasing garden. In fact, the plant choices and the concepts employed to create a fire safe garden go hand in hand with sustainability, drought tolerance, and a satisfyingly diverse and colorful garden design.
I am a gardener first and a firefighter second, but it is the contemplation of both ideals that helps me design and grow a beautiful, fire-safe garden…
A Resource Guide for Fire-Safe Gardens
For Further Reading
Beatty, Russell A. “Landscape Design for Fire Safety.” Pacific Horticulture 65, no 3 (July 2004): 5-11.
EBMUD. Firescape, “Landscaping to Reduce Fire Hazard.” Oakland: East Bay
Municipal Utilities District, 2003.
Gilmer, Maureen. The Wildfire Survival Guide. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing, 1995.
“This book has valuable information about landscaping for fire safety, as well as tips for home defense and shelter in place.” (Dave Egbert)
Kelaidis, Gwen Moore. Hardy Succulents. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2008.
Kent, Douglas. Firescaping. Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press, 2005.
“This book is probably the best resource for fire-safe landscaping in print. The emphasis is on how plants grow and the importance of maintenance over mere lists of plants. It also deals with the aftermath of a fire, with information on erosion control, replanting, and water systems for fire safety” (Dave Egbert)
Sterman, Nan. “Fire and Ice in a Southern California Garden.” Pacific Horticulture 69, no 3 (July 2008): 47-51.
Websites of Interest to the Firewise Gardener
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection: https://www.fire.ca.gov/programs/communications/defensible-space-prc-4291/
Dave Egbert’s fire-safe garden: www.firesafegarden.com (Dave is both a gardener and a volunteer firefighter on the Big Sur coast of Central California.)
Firewise Communities: www.firewise.org
Las Pilitas Nursery: https://www.laspilitas.com/fire.htm
Project Wildfire: www.projectwildfire.org
Santa Barbara County Fire Department: https://www.sbcfire.com/fp/hrp.html
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: https://groups.ucanr.org/SAFE/
The Water Conservation Garden: www.thegarden.org