The Marshall Fire changed everything. The threat of fire is now top of mind for everyone in Colorado, no longer just the concern of mountain dwellers. Chris Woods, Senior Landscape Designer at Matrix Gardens, is a thought leader in the area of fire-mitigating landscaping, also known as firewise landscape design, and post-fire landscape consultant. Contact her today to invest in the future safety of your home.
Fire is a natural part of the renewal cycle for forests and grasslands, and they will continue to increase in intensity due to the effects of climate change. Urban wildfires or wildland-urban interface (WUI) is becoming more common where human development meets or intermingles with natural terrain and wildland vegetation such as grasslands. Coloradans are waking up to the fact that we all need to do our part to prevent fires from destroying our homes by protecting our property. This starts with the principle of defensible space which is the natural and landscaped area around a structure that is designed and maintained to reduce fire danger.
Top Defensible Space Principles
- Eliminate fire ignition potential
- Remove all flammable materials 5 feet from structure and foundation
- Keep corners of the structure and areas under decks, clear of combustible debris
- Use fire resistant plants and materials for decking and stairs
- Remove branches that hang over the roof and chimney or touch power lines
- Avoid creating continuous planting beds and “ladder fuels”
- Mow grass and weeds to a height of 4 inches or less
- Never dump plant debris into adjacent wildlands or vacant lots
Defensible space is divided into 3 zones
Immediate: 0 – 5ft from furthest attached exterior point of structure
MOST CRITICAL AREA
Intermediate: 5ft – 30ft from furthest point of structure
FUEL REDUCTION AREA – reduce intensity of approaching fire
Extended: 30ft – 100ft+
COLLABORATE WITH NEIGHBORS to protect multiple properties
Top Firewise Landscaping Principles
- Employ the 3-zone defensible space principles
- Use fire-resistant plants, maintain and water regularly
- Install fuel breaks with hardscape material such as:
retaining walls, walkways, driveways, boulder placement & gravel mulch
- Maintain trees and shrubs by pruning dead and dying branches
- Maintain irrigation systems and access to emergency water supplies including having a 50-foot hose available for all hose bibs that you could put out a grass or surface fires from wildlands.
- Deep water trees throughout summer and fall and during dry winters
- Healthy plants are less flammable.
Watch Chris Woods give a lecture on firewise design to 500 members of the Marshall Fire community on April 2, 2022.
Firewise Shrub Examples
- Mountain Mahogany – Cercocarpus
- Rabbitbrush – Chrysothamnus nauseosus
- Golden currant – Ribes aureum
- Western Sand Cherry – Prunus besseyi
- Common lilac – Syringa vulgaris
Firewise Tree Examples
- Bigtooth Maple – Acer grandidentatum
- Serviceberry – Amelanchier sp.
- Hawthorn – Crataegus sp.
- Honeylocust – Gleditsia sp.
- Crabapple – Malus sp.
A few days after the Marshall Fire, President Biden visited the site where over 1,000 homes had been destroyed. Addressing those who had lost so much, he talked about the Build Back Better initiative. (Read the Rocky Mountain PBS article.) An idea began to circulate among those present, emphasizing the idea of “Don’t just build back, build forward!” In other words, take this opportunity to incorporate state-of-the-art eco-friendly architecture and regenerative landscaping as the guiding principles of rebuilding.
Regenerative landscaping encourages long-term sustainability, increased biodiversity, and enhanced resilience. For example, neighbors could collaborate to build connecting habitat corridors. It’s a holistic way to approach the way our habitats can interface with the natural world in a way that is inclusive and exhibits respect for all life. At Matrix Gardens, regenerative landscaping is our guiding principle.
Contact Matrix Gardens today to discuss firewise landscaping that is beautiful, functional and sustainable, that utilizes native plants and supports pollinators, for a design that is safe, functional and pure Colorado.