Wildfire mitigation techniques

Mitigating your property and neighborhood might sound complicated, but it’s really not. Here are three steps to get your home and property properly mitigated this fire season.

1. Create defensible space: The first step in mitigating your property is to create defensible space around your home.

“Defensible space is the area surrounding your home that can help protect it from loss or damage in a wildfire,” says Erin Johnson, wildfire programs manager for the Theodore Payne Foundation. “Depending on your location, proximity to neighbors, terrain type, and habitat, defensible space is typically defined as a radius of 100 feet surrounding a structure.”

To create a defensible space around your property, you’ll want to remove any fuel within that perimeter.

“Clear grasses and shrubs below larger trees, and trim trees up to reduce the chances of fire carrying from the ground into the tops of trees,” says Landsman.

Don’t stack firewood on a deck or next to the home since embers can gather in the firewood stack, ignite it, and then ignite the deck or home itself.

Don’t forget to clean out pine needles accumulating in your gutter or on your roof, or even the tree branches growing over your deck. Anything that could help a fire spread from your property to your home has to go if you plan on having a truly defensible space.

2. Landscape wisely: Another key step to keeping your home safe is choosing wisely when it comes to landscaping.

“California native plants have remarkable characteristics that provide protective services to homes and structures during and after a fire,” says Johnson. “The massive canopy of a coast live oak can act as a shield for your home, extinguishing embers that travel miles ahead of a fire. Likewise, an evergreen ground cover such as coyote brush can help diffuse embers rolling toward your home. The deep roots of many species such as toyon can help stabilize slopes, preventing mudslides after a fire.”

What makes native plants so robust?

“Native plants can hold their hydration and health better than non-native plants,” says Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping. “This makes them better at resisting high, dry heat. Non-natives, by contrast, can escape our gardens and become fuel for fire.”

3. Help out your neighbors: An important aspect of fire mitigation that many people forget, is that it should be a collaborative effort among neighbors.

“Landscaping for wildfire resilience is one small action we can take as individuals to prepare for wildfire,” says Johnson. “But to achieve true wildfire resiliency, our actions need to take place on the community scale.”

So go ahead and coordinate a group fire mitigation cleanup for that neglected park, or contact your elderly neighbors to see if they need help clearing some brush. After all, it takes a village to reduce wildfire risk.