- Keep nearby trees pruned so they don’t overhang roofs, preferably 10 feet away.
- If trees are more than 18 feet tall, prune branches at least 6 feet from the ground. This will help prevent lower branches from igniting should there be a low ground fire and spreading upward — the “fire ladder” effect.
- If in a wooded area, try and keep trees and native vegetation cleared within 50 feet of the home or structures — the “fire safe” or “defensible” space. Beyond that, it may be good to thin the vegetation by 50 percent the next 50 feet.
- Keep trees furthest from the house, shrubs closer, and flowers or lawn nearest the house. Keep plants near buildings from drying out. All plants will burn, but healthy ones burn much slower. Adding plenty of compost and peat moss to beds increases their water-holding capacity, so helps keep plants from drying out.
- Keep dead twigs pruned from shrubs and trees, and of course remove dead plants that will only dry up and create potential fuel for fires.
- Similarly, keep fallen leaves raked from under plants, especially near homes.
- Don’t mow dry grass. This not only helps the grass survive, but avoids the potential for sparks from mowers to ignite dry grass and thatch.
When choosing plants for a fire-resistant landscape, select those with:
- the least seasonal (usually fall) dropping of leaves or needles for conifers
- open branching habits (they provide less fuel for fires)
- non-resinous sap (that is those without thick, sticky sap such as junipers, pines, spruces, and firs)
- less total branches and leaves (again, less fuel for fires)
- high moisture content in leaves (these burn and ignite more slowly); avoid ornamental grasses next to homes
- drought tolerance
- slow growth, so less pruning (to keep open as noted above)
Check out our plant guide for some Arizona desert adapted plants that will work well in your landscape.