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7 Fire Resistance Tips from a Commercial Landscape Designer

When it comes to commercial & HOA landscape designers, why is fire-resistant landscaping so high on the agenda right now?

In past years, we have seen the Bay Area and NorCal at large experience more wildfires than most would hope to encounter in a lifetime.

For those whose heart belongs to this beautiful region—as our team’s certainly do—the devastating blight of flames is a wrenching thing to experience, and certainly something we all want to mitigate.

Continuing droughts may at times make us feel defenseless, however—fortuitously—there are plenty of things that we can do to adapt our landscaping to the risks.

Better yet, in reducing the associated dangers by harnessing these simple firescape design strategies, we can find genuine empowerment for our beloved locale in the process.

What Is Firescape Design?

Fire-resistant landscaping, often also known as firescape design, is an approach to commercial landscape maintenance & design that sees fire safety and prevention strategically incorporated into beautiful landscape creation.

The features of this approach potentially hold the power to help to stop a fire before it gets out of control, and protect the structures that the landscaping in question surrounds.

If you’re on the hunt for Cal Fire tips on how to make your landscape fire-safe or how to implement fire-resistant landscaping for your commercial or HOA property, read on.

1. Hardscaping as Multi-Functional Firebreaks

Whether a landscape is designed for a commercial or private property, function and flow is always going to be a top consideration when placing hardscaping.

However, a smart HOA & commercial landscape designer will understand that landscaping elements can be multi-functional, and this is certainly the case when it comes to firescape design and hardscaping.

Hardscape features such as sweeping walkways, walls, or dividers can each serve as a powerful barrier against the potential of creeping flames.

Property owners or managers who know that their landscaping currently holds dividers and fencing made from flammable materials should consider now the time for an overhaul.

When fire-proof hardscaping is interspersed with well-soaked lawn and foliage, an approaching fire may well be stopped in its tracks.

2. Nurturing Fire-Resistant Foliage

Did you know that lush and flourishing vegetation is far less flammable than its neglected and forlorn counterpart?

That’s because thriving vegetation is plump with water, making it far less likely to catch fire. By investing in keeping your plants healthy, with added nutrients as required and—crucially—a weather-adjusted watering schedule, you also invest in landscaping that will stand a far better chance in the face of fire danger.

3. Choosing Fire Resistant Plant Species

Beyond keeping the moisture content of your planted areas high, you can also prioritize fire-resistant plant species within your firescape landscape design.

‘According with Cal Fire, keep your property lean and green, create defensible space to help protect people and structures’.

Here in the Bay Area, this often means something so simple as turning to native plants that have naturally evolved fire defenses.

Other great choices will have a low sap or resin content, as these types of plants catch fire more easily. Succulents offer great flame-resistant properties, as do a diversity of qualified species from Sumac to Ice plants.

Your trusted commercial landscape designer should be ready to advise on which plants will deliver the design you dream of with added fire resistance.

4. Creating Safety Zones Around Architectural Structures

While verdant planting that hugs a building can certainly offer a cool escape from the sun, creating a physical break against walls can prevent heat exposure to the surface of the structure if a fire should strike.

According with Cal Fire, AB 38 guidelines for defensible space include leaving a ten-foot gap between dense planting and exterior walls. If there are large trees in close proximity to buildings and other structures, it is savvy to remove all branches up to at least six-feet from the ground.

This will prevent a creeping fire from jumping up into the tree’s canopy.

5. Making Strategic Mulching Choices

We are huge fans of mulching here at FloraTerra—because this simple practice offers so much value, thanks to its ability to suppress weeds and prevent the evaporation of precious water.

That said, when it comes to fire-resistant landscape design, it is important to choose mulch types carefully.

In fire-safe zones that are well broken up by hardscaping, wood chip or recycled rubber mulch can be great eco-friendly choices.

However, in other areas where risk is higher, favoring gravel or rock can ensure that mulch doesn’t become a fuel source.

6. Removing Flammable Debris 

While the hottest month of the year in San Jose may be July, wildfires often strike in early fall. Have you ever wondered why that is?

In recent years particularly, the point at which trees begin to shed their leaves often arrives before the rain does. This means that all of that dead and falling foliage only adds to the fodder for fire season’s last farewell.

The clearing of debris that could pose a fire risk should be a summer-long endeavor, but especially at the end of the dry season, when material begins to fall and gather, it is essential to stay on top of the task.

Leaf’s, twigs, bark, and branches can all be raked and collected, and then turned into nutrient-rich compost that will help keep plants more fire-resistant for next year’s dry season.

7. Establishing Best Practices for Fire Safety

Beyond all of the suggestions above, there is much to be said for developing a common-sense set of rules that are always followed during drier months.

These will vary from property to property, but will certainly include things like storing flammable materials and fuels safely, not using the fire pit during drought weather, keeping a fire extinguisher by the barbecue, and having hoses ready to use if a fire warning is issued.

Is your property as fire safe as it could be? If you feel that fire-resistant landscaping strategies would give you greater peace of mind, the FloraTerra Landscape team are always ready to assist.

Not only can we help you develop the brand new firescape commercial landscape design you envision, but we can also give mature landscaping a sympathetic and thoughtful fire-prevention makeover.

Learn more by contacting our team today. Call 408.275.1200

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