JoAnne Skelly: Wildfire knows no season
May is Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the fire agencies across the state are asking people to prepare their homes and communities to reduce the risks of a wildfire.
In addition to all the precautions we can take prior to a wildfire to prepare our home and to prepare our family for an evacuation, we can also make improvements to our landscapes that can reduce ignition potential.
Some plants, such as cheatgrass, sagebrush, bitterbrush, rabbitbrush, junipers and evergreens are highly ignitable and need to be avoided or reduced near structures.
These hazardous plants create an abundance of fuels for fires to ignite when they begin to dry out as the weather heats up.
Plants that are wiser choices for our high fire hazard area have a high moisture content and a low-growing habit. These include herbaceous plants such as lawn, conservation grasses, some ground covers, annual and perennial flowers and bulbs. Deciduous shrubs that are less than two feet in height are more appropriate within 30 feet of a structure in our fire-prone areas.
Although trees aren’t low-growing, they’re a desirable addition to any landscape for a variety of reasons. So, when selecting trees, choose deciduous ones because they usually have a higher moisture content than evergreen trees.
The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has an illustrated plant guide that can help called “Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada’s High Fire Hazard Areas,” http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2007/eb0701.pdf. Unfortunately, there are no “fireproof” plants, but there are less fire-prone plants that are harder to burn, don’t burn as hot or produce shorter flame lengths if they do ignite.
In established landscapes, keep an area of at least 30 feet from the home, “Lean, Clean and Green.”
“Lean” means little flammable vegetation, if any, is present within 30 feet of the house.
“Clean” means keeping dead vegetation or flammable debris out of this area.
“Green” requires plants are kept healthy, green and irrigated. This area within 30 feet often has irrigation, contains ornamental plants, and is routinely maintained.
If there are native plants such as sagebrush, cheatgrass, pinyon and other wild plants in or near the residential landscape, remove all dead vegetation (dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches, pine needles, etc.).
Thin out thick shrubs and trees to create a separation between them. Remove “ladder fuels” by removing low tree branches and removing or pruning the shrubs under the tree.
Prepare now! Wildfire knows no season. For information, go to http://www.livingwithfire.info and explore the learning center.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.