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Old 06-17-2004, 03:15 PM
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Default looking for fire resistant plants

From: viola toniolo,
Date: 02/23/01
Time: 03:18 PM

i am looking for native plants that are fire resistant or fire retardant. does anyone have any relevant information or know of resources for this type of information?


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Old 06-17-2004, 03:16 PM
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From: Carrie Schneider
Date: 03/04/01
Time: 05:59 AM


You don't say what part of the state you are in, but the Environmental Services Department in the City of San Diego publishes a good brochure "Environmentally Sensitive Brush Management". It includes a list of natives (mostly chapparal) with low fire-risk potential. You can get one (or 100!) by calling Brush Control at 619-533-444.

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Old 06-17-2004, 03:16 PM
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Date: 04/02/01
Time: 04:40 PM

Any plant will burn in some fire scenario, but some, like cacti, having more stored water than combustible tissue resist burning longer than others. So "fire resistant" is a "loaded" term--it's relative. No plant is "fire retardant." These terms are mostly misleading hype promulgated by self-styled "experts." If you want real information on fire behavior, the U. S. Forest Service's Western Region Fire Lab in Riverside is a good place to start.

If you want help reducing the hazard to your home, pets, and lives, please be more specific about what you're trying to accomplish. Most house fires are started by glowing embers contacting flammable materials (like wood roofs, eaves, attics) rather than flame fronts anyway. Probably the worst and most common fuel contacted by embers is furnishings that these little incendiary bombs reach through open or broken (often by the heat of the fire) windows and torn screens. Replace your glazing with heat-resistant glass. Make sure your screens are tight and sound. Close all windows. Turn on the air conditioning to the coldest setting. Plug door cracks with wet towels. Wet everything else you can. Move everything combustible away from the house, particularly windows and doors.

Planting "fire resistant and retardant" plants can be somewhat helpful, but there is a grave danger of folks lulling themselves into a false sense of security by concentrating on plants and forgetting the far more important and dangerous factors. Don't plant trees like eucalypts, pines, and others with small, resinous leaves near the house or decks, no matter how pretty you think they are. Keep roofs and gutters clear of all leaves and other flammables.

If vegetation is close to your house, clip off branches using hand shears only (since only wildland fuels smaller than about a half-inch in diameter burn anyway), concentrating on those branches you can reach without a ladder on big shrubs (thus converting them to trees while maintaining the canopy, cut about a third of the low bushes that dry up in summer down to an inch or so above the ground (they grow back with higher fuel moisture content) every year, and break up continuous volumes of vegetation near your house to minimize lateral fire progression and provide space for suppression forces. Don't use combustible building materials, but if you do, install a large-volume sprinkler to wet them (decks, fences, etc.) down about a half-hour before you evacuate. It's best to have your own gas-driven pump and reserve (stored) water supply (at least 1,000 gallons) for this, as your public utility water may be shut off or of insufficient pressure. A foam product might be a highly desirable addition to your self-defense arsenal, especially if you can't store much water (but do store SOME).

Above all, understand that wildland fires are not a matter of IF, but WHEN, so you are being sensible, not paranoid. Consider these steps to be cheap insurance. Of course, if your neighbors don't follow suit, all of your efforts could be in vain. If you think a wildland fire is hot, and burn "forever," if you think firebrands from wildland fuels are big and ubiquitous and far-reaching and long-lasting, a single structure fire makes any wildland fire look like a tea-party. You don't have to live on the urban-wildland "interface" to lose your home, your pets, and your family to fire. Wildland fires are a serious threat, but they also are a convenient scapegoat for incompetent planning, inept administration, inadequate fire suppression resources, and general public ignorance and denial.

Congratulations on having the good sense to be concerned about fire! You are a rare type. It's your effort that will make the difference, and often tiny differences produce the "saves" that the news hounds simple-mindedly declare "miraculous" after the fire.

Best, WT
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