Hero Image

Tips: Monthly Fire-smart Reminders

Feeling overwhelmed and need a place to start? Check out our monthly tips for actionable, affordable ways to reduce fuel on your property. Our fire-smart landscaping tips are a reminder to homeowners to plan and maintain their homes and landscapes with awareness of the threat of wildfires. Read on for this month's fire-smart tip!



JANUARY: Time to Prune!

Richard Ackley
Richard Ackley

  • Trim tall trees to remove limbs 6 to 10 feet from the ground but keep at least 2/3 of the total height in foliage
  • Remove branches within 10 ft of chimney. Consult an arborist to consider elimination of branches that overhang the roof to minimize plant debris but not to the detriment of the health of the tree.
  • Avoid topping trees and shearing hedges as this causes weak and twiggy growth and more fuel for a fire.


FEBRUARY: Trees - Consider size


  • Consider creating separation by increasing spacing between tree canopies
  • Increase spacing between ground shrubs and lower limbs of trees
  • Remove dead trees

MARCH: It's spring! Think Lean, Clean and Green.

lean clean and green photo

  • Lean: Allow space between individual plants, or plant in small, irregular clusters or islands.
  • Clean: Remove dried grass, weeds, dead branches, and other dead vegetation. Check gutters, roof, eaves, vents and chimney for leaf and needle litter.
  • Green: Properly irrigated plants remain healthy and green summer through fall.  Check your irrigation system regularly for leaks or malfunctions.

APRIL:  Remove and replace invasive plants

Pampas grass. Piqsels
Pampas grass. Piqsels

  • Remove invasive plants like ivy, broom, and pampas grass that spread quickly and add considerable fuel for fire.
  • Replace with native or other appropriate plants.
  • Avoid excessive clearing or “scorched earth” gardening that provides a vulnerable entry point for the plants we do not want.


MAY: Maintain plants along exit routes from your home

F Mark
F Mark

  • Identify the escape routes to your vehicle
  • Remove or move jute door mats, wood planters and other combustible materials from your exits
  • Assess the health and condition of the plants along each route
  • Remove dead plant material and plant debris
  • Remove vines near doors or windows
  • Replace wood gates, arbors, or trellises near exit routes with noncombustible material


JUNE: Clean up Zone Zero

cluttered sideyard

  • Clean-up areas where wind eddies deposit leaf and plant litter along the perimeter of your home. 
  • Clear dead debris from flower beds close to the home.
  • Rake up wood mulch within 5 feet of the home and move it to another location in your garden.
  • Trim dead, damaged and diseased branches and dispose of the material in your green waste bin.
  • Move common combustible fire hazards away from the area immediately surrounding your home including brooms, rakes, plastic waste bins, wood furniture, furniture cushions, wood piles, and natural fiber door mats. Move these items as far away from your house as possible – or indoors if a nearby wildfire threatens.

JULY: Mindfully Mulch


  • Zero to five feet from your house: use only non-combustible mulch such as stone, rock and gravel.
  • 5 feet to 30 feet from your home: use composted wood chips or bark nuggets. Limit mulch depth to two inches. Separate wood chip areas with non-flammable materials such as decomposed granite, gravel and rocks.
  • 30 feet and beyond from your home: Okay to use larger wood chips up to a depth of 3 inches.
  • Do not use fine, stringy mulches. They burn faster than larger chunks.


AUGUST:  Water Wise and Fire-smart

Marie Narlock
Marie Narlock

When it comes to water, use these important fire-smart strategies:

  • Do not wet down your property on Red Flag warning days. This depletes the water our fire departments need. Irrigate as normal.
  • Clearly mark all emergency (and other) water sources.
  • Create easy firefighter access to your closest emergency water source.
  • Store an extra hose or two with emergency supplies.
  • Keep hoses accessible for firefighters.
  • Keep your irrigation system in good condition.


SEPTEMBER: Maintaining a Fire-smart Landscape

Alice Cason
Alice Cason

  • Clear leaf and needle litter from gutters, roof, eaves, vents, and chimney.
  • Clear branches 10 feet from the chimney.
  • Rake-up fallen leaves and evergreen needles.
  • Remove dead vegetation and dry grasses and dead wood from trees and shrubs.
  • Check plants for drought stress.


OCTOBER:  Right Plant, Right Place


There are no fire-resistant plants, since all plants can burn. Rather than focus on individual plant species, consider growth habits and plant characteristics. In general, avoid plants and trees that:

  • Produce excessive dead, dry, or fine debris that can become fuel for fire
  • Tend to build up dead thatch inside or under a green surface layer
  • Shed large quantities needles, leaves, fronds, dry bark, and other debris


NOVEMBER: Plant Spacing in the Defensible Landscape

FIRESafe Marin

Space trees and shrubs to minimize the transmission of fire from one plant to another.

  • Space trees so that at maturity their crowns are 10 to 15 feet apart or more.
  • Avoid planting trees in rows or hedges.
  • The steeper the slope, the more space to leave between plants and trees.


DECEMBER:  Plan Your Fire-smart Landscape

These zones make up the 100' of defensible space required by law. FIRESafe Marin
These zones make up the 100' of defensible space required by law. FIRESafe Marin

Make a fire-smart plan. Consider existing plants, budget, and how much maintenance you are willing to do. Start by understanding the three defensible space zones.

  • Zone 0: 0 to 5 feet from the house. This is the most critical area. Minimize combustible materials and separate plants with non-combustible materials.
  • Zone 1: 5 to 30 feet from the house. Separate plantings and garden beds with hardscape to slow the spread of flames.
  • Zone 2: 30 to 100 feet from the house. Here, you can use larger shrubs and trees planted in widely spaced groups or “islands.” Consider the mature size of plants and shrubs to maintain spaces.