Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Fire-smart Landscaping - Clean Up

Tools to maintain your Fire-smart landscape. Source: Pleuntje
Tools to maintain your Fire-smart landscape. Source: Pleuntje
Clean up quick check list:

  • Remove dead plants, grass and weeds
  • Prior to fire season, remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof, and rain gutters.
  • Move flammable items away from house including plastic bins
  • Nothing under the deck
  • Avoid mowing on hot or windy days
  • Stack woodpiles at least 30’ from any structures
  • Keep generators ideally a minimum of 30’ from any structure and 10’ from plants
  • Remove any propane tanks that are not in use and move 30’ away from structures if fire approaches
  • Do not allow construction materials, recreational equipment or other debris to accumulate

Ongoing:

  • Clear ground fuel: dispose of leaves, pine needles, and other plant litter from around and under plants prior to fire season
  • Use equipment properly to keep from sparking a wildfire.
  • Try to mow before 10 a.m. and don’t mow on hot or windy days.
  • Remove dead plants
  • Prune dead branches from trees and shrubs
  • Remove weeds
  • Remove vines from trees, shrubs, and combustible fences
  • Remove tree branches overhanging your roof and keep them at least 10 feet away from your chimney.
  • Clean all dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters.
  • Prevent combustible materials and debris, including dry grass, from accumulating beneath patio decks or elevated porches. Screen or enclose areas below decks with wire mesh screen no larger than ¼ inch, OR even better, attach skirting of ignition-resistant materials from the deck to the ground.
  • Evaluate use of bark for mulch relative to the distance from your home or other structures on your property.
  • Check your irrigation system and look for broken sprinkler heads
  • Check your irrigation for uneven water coverage due to incorrect head placement

Annually, especially before fire season:

  • Mow annual grasses and weeds to about three inches tall
  • Cut back woody perennials and shrubs that accumulate dry material in a single season (e.g., lavender)
  • Thin overgrown vegetation and cut back woody perennials
  • Cover woodpiles and clear surrounding vegetation
  • String trimmers are a safer option (vs. lawnmowers) for clearing vegetation.
  • Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from any structures and clear flammable vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles. (One cord of firewood contains 20 million BTUs of heat energy, the equivalent of 160 gallons of gasoline. Do you want that near your home?
  • Remove combustible debris on and or under decks, overhangs, and fences.
  • Keep gutters and roofs free of pine needles and leaves.

Every few years (or as needed):

  • Cut back vines and low-growing groundcovers (e.g., ivy) to remove build-up of dry stems and dead leaves
  • Cut back twiggy shrubs (e.g., baccharis, rosemary, lavender) after bloom, to renew
  • Gently thin trim back tree canopies to remove twiggy growth and maintain separation between trees
  • Keep lowest branches of trees pruned up 1/3 height of the tree or ten to twenty feet, depending on the height of the tree and the height of underlying vegetation
  • Avoid topping trees as this causes excessive branching and twiggy growth that can increase the fire hazard and is unhealthy for the tree.

 Propane Tanks and Street Numbers: 

  • Locate propane tanks at least 30 feet from any structure and surround them with at least 10 feet of clearance from plants and debris. Be sure that your tank has seismic tie downs.
  • Make sure there is no flammable debris underneath propane tanks.
  • Make sure that your street is named or numbered, and a sign is visibly posted at each street intersection.
  • Post visible street numbers for your house using at least 4-inch, reflective numbers on a solid background.

Reference Materials for further reading: 

Protect Your Home From Wildfire: https://disastersafety.org/wildfire/protect-your-home-from-wildfire

Homeowner’s Checklist Cal Fire: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/wp-content/uploads/Homeowners-Checklist.pdf

Preparing Your Landscape: https://ucanr.edu/sites/fire/Wildfire_Preparation_-_Recovery/Landscaping/

Seasonal Chores: http://marinmg.ucanr.edu/Manage_A_Garden/Irrigation/

Webmaster Email: banielsen@ucanr.edu