Summertime is a happy time of year for most homeowners. It’s time to get outside, throw a barbecue, and enjoy the beautiful yard you have cultivated. As joyful as summer can be, it can also bring with it the danger of intense heat waves, dry weather, and Oregon forest fires.
Forest fires are nature’s way of clearing away the dead plants and debris from the forest floor. While they may be a resource in nature’s cleaning toolkit, they clearly present a danger to people and their homes. Don’t panic just yet, though. At Mr. Tree, we can provide vital tips and recommendations on how to protect your yard from Oregon forest fires.
Get Smart with Your Lawn Care
While it may sound simple, general lawn care is a big part of keeping your yard safe. Make it a habit to prune dead or dying plants and trees. Keep your grass short, and remember to clear out the cut grass, fallen leaves, needles, and pruning debris often. By keeping up with the standard chores, you’re reducing the fuel that keeps fires burning. This helps protect your yard and home.
Major yard work and any necessary decluttering of your yard is best completed during the spring. Since equipment fires often come in as the second leading cause of Oregon forest fires—just behind escaped debris from backyard burnings—it’s best to not need to use metal and gas-powered equipment during summer if you can help it. In summer, vegetation is more susceptible to igniting from sparks caused by blades hitting rocks or hot exhaust systems. So if it’s imperative to operate equipment during the summer, do so in the morning when the air is cool. If possible, also try using tools with plastic parts, like a weed whacker.
While it may be the most obvious lawn care tip around, it’s important to remember the strength of a properly watered yard. Water will keep your plants and trees greener, helping increase their resistance to the heat of an Oregon forest fire. With trees especially, be sure to know how much water they need. Depending on age and species, they can require up to an inch of water weekly during the hot summer months.
Borders and Barriers
Have you ever considered putting a snaking pathway through your yard? Or thought a low stone fence would be a nice addition to your home’s aesthetics? Well, if you have, then you have unknowingly been considering options that could help protect your yard from forest fires.
Paths and fences, especially stone or cement versions, are not only beautiful additions to a landscape. They’re also fire-smart decisions. A wide brick or paved path both breaks up your lawn and helps prevent fires from destroying the whole yard if one section is ignited. This is because the fire then has to “jump” across a non-heat-conducting surface to continue. Paths, as an added bonus, will also create better access for first responders if a forest fire impacts your property.
In general, it’s recommended that you have 30 feet of defensible space around your home—and much-loved trees—that is free of combustible materials. This can be assisted with various types of barriers, such as pathways, walls, or borders. Some borders may be created with less fire-susceptible options, such as mulch. Spreading mulch around your trees and garden helps to maintain consistent soil moisture, eliminate weeds, and keep your trees and plants healthy.
Some less-flammable mulch options include seashells and granite chunks. If you’re looking for a border option involving plants, however, consider replacing your current trees, shrubs, and flowers with more fire-resistant plants.
Fire-resistant plants are trees and plants that don’t readily ignite from a flame or other ignition source. While they aren’t fire-proof and can still be damaged or killed by fire, their stems and foliage don’t significantly contribute to the fire’s fuel or intensity. Fire-resistant plants have leaves that are generally moist and supple. They have sparse amounts of deadwood and don’t tend to accumulate dry or dead material within the plant itself.
These trees and plants have low amounts of sap or resin materials, and the sap they do contain is water-like and free of strong odors. Most deciduous trees and shrubs are fire-resistant. There are many aesthetically appealing Pacific Northwest trees and plants—like delphinium and ponderosa pine tree—to choose from when looking for fire-resistant options to protect your yard.
While tree trimming is something we always recommend for keeping your trees beautiful and healthy, it’s also a way to remove “ladder fuels.” Ladder fuel is a common term used by firefighters referring to live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the landscape into the tree canopy. This can also include tall grasses and shrubs, so remember to keep them neatly trimmed low as well.
For your trees, we recommend pruning the branches up to 6 to 10 feet above the ground. If you need assistance or have any questions about pruning or trimming your trees, please reach out to our trained arborists, who are here to help.
While we would like for no one to have to worry about the dangers of Oregon forest fires, we hope this protection guide proves useful. As always, the best tool is knowledge, and so we want to add that staying informed of forest fires in your area will also help keep not only your yard, but also you and your family protected as well. As the summer heats up, consider regularly checking various resource sites to know what fires are in your area and reach out to your local fire department to learn what recommendations they have.