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Living Landscapes Help California Homeowners Protect Property from Wildfires

By Kris Kiser, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)

California is undergoing a brutal fire season, and sadly, reports say it’s only getting underway. Relentless drought, Santa Ana winds, and the millions of dead trees in the state killed by lack of water and bark beetle infestation combine to create a perfect storm for increased fire danger.

Living landscapes – grass, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants – can help California homeowners protect their property and their real estate values. Fire danger is just one more reason not to rip out your lawn in favor of deadened mulch, rocks, pavers and even plastic grass.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, living grass is the best natural fire break. Healthy turf grass can be a significant deterrent to wildfires and can help protect property. Green grass retards the spread of wildfires because of its low fuel value. It also provides a defendable space around structures where firefighters can work effectively. In fact, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, homeowners are required by law to create a defensible space of 100 feet around their home by allocating a “lean, clean and green zone” that is void of flammable vegetation within 30 feet of their house and a “reduced fuel zone” in the remaining 70 feet (or to the property line).

But how exactly can California homeowners have a green, living landscape in the midst of severe drought and water restrictions? It’s simple, really.

Know your climate zone. What plants survive best, taking into account your region and use?

Select plants that are drought–tolerant. For instance, many species of grass require very little water. You can even look for fire–retardant plants and shrubs (such as rockrose, ice plant, aloe, hedging roses and shrub apples) for added protection.

Water wisely and only when necessary. Grass requires much less water than most people think.

The best time for homeowners to protect their property from wildfire is before one strikes. To learn more about the importance of living landscapes and for more tips on how to protect green space even in drought conditions, visit



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