In Southwest Oregon, fires are a natural part of the changing landscape. Homeowners must take special precautions to protect their lives, homes, and property. One way to do this is to create a defensible space around the home by reducing wildfire fuels, and using fire-resistant plant material in the landscape. Examples of fire-resistant landscaping can be viewed at the Grants Pass Firewise Garden located at the Hillcrest Public Safety Center at 199 NW Hillcrest Dr.
Fire-resistant plants are those that do not readily ignite from a 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, therefore, the fire's intensity. There are several other factors that influence the fire-resistant characteristics of plants, including leaf moisture content, presence of dead material, and chemical content of the sap. Generally, deciduous trees and plants are less flammable than conifers.
Examples of highly flammable plants include ornamental juniper, Leyland cypress, Italian cypress, rosemary, arborvitae, eucalyptus, and some ornamental grasses. Care should be taken to not place fire prone plants adjacent to any structures and preferably not within 30 feet of the house.
Fire Resistant Privacy Screen Plants
Many landowners wish to establish and maintain plant screens for purposes of privacy as well as dust and noise control. Privacy screens can also serve as hedgerows, providing wildlife habitat and adding beauty to your landscape.
However, some commonly used privacy screen plants such as Leyland cypress are highly flammable and are thus riskier to use in wildfire-prone environments. In such fire-prone areas, use of fire-resistant plants in privacy screens can reduce fire risk. Consult with your local Oregon State University Extension agent for more information.