I attended a wildfire mitigation seminar from one of Colorado Springs’ Fire Department educators. She presented informative landscape suggestions based on analysis of the impacts of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Fire investigators reported that 53 of the 346 homes (21%) were ignited due to vegetation issues.
Please note this is my interpretation of her advice. It should not be considered direct quotes or requirements to which you must adhere. But you may wish to take this advice into account if you live in a community at the wildland-urban interface in Colorado to reduce the chance your home will be damaged by wildfire.
- Keep the area under your deck free of vegetation.
- Keep branches pruned to at least five feet away from structures and decks. March is a great time to prune trees and shrubs.
- Don’t plant continuous lines of landscape plants. Use a variety of plant materials and plant them in clusters separated from other planting groups.
- Don’t use wood mulch up against the base of your home. If it catches fire, it can cause the structure to ignite. Instead, use rock mulch within 5 feet of the base of your home.
- Wood mulch may be appropriate in your landscape, but use it in islands separated by rock mulch or mowed grass. Using it under trees, from the trunk to the dripline, is a reasonable place.
Trees and Shrubs
- Keep evergreen trees only if the trunk is at least 15 feet away from the home. Deciduous trees can be 10 feet away. Small groupings of shrubs are okay as long as their well-maintained. Consult a licensed arborist if you have a special tree growing within 15 feet of your house.
- Within 30 feet of your home, separate groupings of trees and shrubs (like scrub oak) from other combustible materials by at least 10 feet of rock or mowed grass.
- Keep the limbs of large trees pruned within ten feet of the ground. Prune to remove overlapping branches, if possible.
- Check with your local fire department regarding local vegetation management recommendations and requirements.
- Ask which requirements apply to existing construction or new construction.
- The updates to the Colorado Springs fire code (Jan 2013) only apply to new construction in the “Hillside Overlay Boundaries,” but their advice is worth considering if you live in a foothill community. Find out more here.