FireSmart Canada

Become FireSmart: Yard and Landscaping

There’s no reason you can’t make your yard and landscaping FireSmart AND aesthetically pleasing. When landscaping consider clearing out debris and open up the area close to your home.

The FireSmart program identifies three priority zones that must be managed to reduce the wildfire threat to your home. Priority zones one and two are the most critical– this is known as the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ). Homeowners, builders and landscapers should focus on reducing the risks in the HIZ.

In addition to the actual building design and construction material used to construct your home, the type of plant material and the design of the landscape immediately adjacent to your home is a critical factor in determining the likelihood of your home surviving a wildfire. It is important to select fire resistant plant material and design your landscape to reduce the risk.

A complete list of FireSmart landscaping tips can be found in the FireSmart Guide to Landscaping.

Fire Resistant Plants

Fire resistant plants are those that do not readily ignite from flame or other ignition sources. These plants can be damaged or even killed by fire; however, their foliage and stems do not significantly contribute to the fuel and fire intensity.

Characteristics of fire resistant plants:

  • Moist, supple leaves
  • Little dead wood and tendency not to accumulate dead material
  • Water-like sap with little or no odour
  • Low amount of sap or resin material

Characteristic of highly flammable plant:

  • Contain fine, dry, dead material within the plant
  • Plant stem, branches and leaves contain volatile waxes, terpenes or oils
  • Leaves are aromatic
  • Gummy resinous sap with a strong odour
  • Loose papery bark

AVOID LANDSCAPING WITH HIGHLY FLAMABLE PLANTS AROUND YOUR HOME. The FireSmart Guide to Landscaping provides a comprehensive list of FireSmart plants.

Turf and water use

A well maintained lawn can serve as an effective firebreak as part of your FireSmart landscape. Lawns can also add to the enjoyment of your yard, property value, and help cool your home in the summer, reducing energy for air-conditioners. However, most lawns are much larger than required and consume high amounts of water in comparison to most other plantings.

Take a look at your lawn and ask yourself these questions:

  • How much of my lawn is actually walked or played on?
  • Is it there because I don’t know what else to do with that area?
  • Are there areas that are difficult or dangerous to mow?
  • Could sections of the lawn be replaced by groundcovers, shrubs or ornamental grasses that need less water and maintenance?
  • Are there areas where hard surfaces like walkways or decks would make the living space more practical?
Mulch

Bark mulch, pine needle mulches and other plant-based mulches offer many benefits to gardens. However, these mulches are susceptible to ignition from wildfire embers or cigarettes, increasing the fire threat to your home. When landscaping against your home, consider using gravel mulch, rock mulch, or a combination of plant mulch and decorative rock mulch to reduce the risk.

Wildlife conflicts and your landscape

In many wildland/urban interface areas most plants will attract wildlife. In most cases this does not result in conflict of high consequence. In some cases, however, it can result in very dangerous situations for both humans and wildlife. The most prominent example is that of human/bear conflicts.

Consider these tips to reduce this conflict potential:

Fruit Trees:

  • Pick fruit and allow it to ripen indoors or pick daily as it ripens. Do not allow windfall to accumulate on the ground.
  • If you do not want the fruit, prune the tree vigorously to prevent blossoms or spray spring blossoms with a garden hose to knock them off.
  • If you would like to make the fruit available to others, contact a local fruit exchange program or food bank.
  • Consider using electric fencing to protect your fruit trees.
  • If you no longer want to manage your tree, consider replacement with a native, non-fruit bearing variety.

Berry Bushes

  • Berries should be picked as they ripen.
  • Consider replacing your bushes with native, non-fruiting varieties if you do not want the fruit.
  • Consider using electric fencing to protect your fruit trees.

Useful Resources

FireSmart Guide to Landscaping

By making some strategic choices in your yard your can create a FireSmart landscape. The manual includes an extensive…

I am committed to remove all long grass, shrubs, logs, branches, twigs and needles within 10 metres of my home.

— Alvin acorn, Community Member, Yellowhead county , Alberta