Protect homes from wildfire

Since spring, wildfires have changed landscapes across New Mexico and Colorado. Just last month, 18 wildfires scorched Jeff Davis County, Texas.

Locally, conditions remain favorable for fire despite the high humidity. Minimal rainfall has seriously dried vegetation, which could easily ignite.

In Hood and surrounding counties, homes are situated in the heart of extensive rural areas that are prone to fire when dry conditions exist. A careless spark, such as a cigarette thrown from a car window, can start a conflagration.

Protect your property with “firewise landscaping.”

The first 30 feet in all directions around your home is called defensible space. On larger properties, the area extending 200 feet in all directions is called the ignition zone.

Field studies prove that maintaining firewise landscapes throughout these spaces can save structures. (Small-property landowners should work with adjacent landowners to keep areas safe.)

A firewise landscape consists of fire resistant/retardant plant materials placed in a manner that reduces fire spread. In other words, a home’s landscape can fuel a fire – or not!

Don’t worry; it’s possible to be fire safe while keeping a wildlife habitat and meeting other gardening goals.

Firewise landscaping tips include:

n Remove or distance highly flammable plants, such as junipers, from structures. Many plants considered flammable produce a sticky, pungent resin or oil (sap). Also, a dense (compact) plant contains more fuel than a light-structured, open-branch plant. Isolate clusters of more flammable plants farther from buildings.

n Separate planting areas using non-combustible materials, such as landscape rocks or concrete walkways, to break continuity and reduce fire spread. Move plants at least 3 feet away from combustible decks or siding. Remove tall, dry grass from around homes, propane tanks and log piles. Whenever feasible, substitute low-growing, moist-leaved plants for taller plants that hold dry vegetation.

n Trim and remove dead branches and dead foliage. Rake and remove fallen leaves and pine needles from beneath vegetation that’s close to structures. Do not use pine bark mulch, which is flammable, in landscape beds or walkways adjacent to or leading to structures.

n As trees grow, trim lower tree branches up 6 feet above the ground to keep fire from traveling up trees. Distance trees and tree crowns away from each other to mitigate fire spread. Do not allow tree branches to overhang structures. Maintain and water plants to keep them healthy; dead plants add fuel. Learn more at www.firewise.org.

For answers to your horticulture questions, call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit lakegranburymastergardeners.org.