Today, with the rising impact of climate change, it’s also appropriate for you to provide them with guidance and recommendations on creating a fire-safe landscape. This often includes removing and replacing fire-prone plants.
Why should Landscape Pros replace fire-prone plants?Removing and replacing fire-prone plants offers many attractive and timely benefits to both you and your customer including:
- Addresses changing climate impact
- Prepares for increasing fire risk
- Supports customer relationships
- Complies with updated local ordinances
- Enhances property values
- Fulfills insurance requirements
- Improves local ecology
Improving fire safety may no longer be optionalTo reduce wildfire risk, many California municipalities throughout the Bay Area have implemented regulations for landscape management and fire-safe planting.
Requirements for replacing fire-prone plants in these environments can depend on influencing factors such as local climate, fire history, and individual property risk assessment. State laws and guidelines also shape these regulations.
For Bay Area landscapes within the Wildland Urban Interface | WUI and Fire Hazard Severity Zones | FHSZ, local governments may require more aggressive landscape and vegetation management measures.
FHSZ uses field-tested models that assign a hazard score—moderate, high, and very high—based on the factors that influence fire likelihood and fire behavior on landscapes within a zip code region.
The result is more and more Bay Area municipalities are now requiring compliance with:
- Defensible Space Requirements
- Vegetation Management Inspections
- Use of listed Fire-Resistant Plants
- Community Wildfire Protection Plans
Experts recognize the need for actionThe California Native Plant Society supports building codes and ordinances that require structures and landscaping in high-fire-risk areas to be situated, constructed, retrofitted, and maintained using materials and practices that minimize the ignition and spread of wildfires.
This includes replacing fire-prone plants with fire-resistant alternatives to reduce wildfire risk and protect your customers.
Disaster prevention can be affordableThe upfront costs of replacing fire-prone plants can provide long-term benefits that lower water bills, sustain property value, and reduce wildfire impact.
Consider implementing a gradual replacement plan over months, focusing on high-priority areas first to make it more affordable for your customer. This approach can spread out the financial investment and meet individual budget requirements.
The cost of gradually replacing fire-prone plants in a Bay Area landscape can depend on many factors including:
- Property size
- Plant selection
- Plant size
- Maintenance frequency
- Resource costs
Tends to accumulate hi-volumes of fine, dead + combustible leaf litter
Creates excessive build-up of dry leaves + combustible flowering stalks
Creates dense, woody biomass high in oil + highly flammable
Filled with volatile + explosively flammable terpenes
Sap expands through bark cracks in high heat and explodes—Bark-shedding + leaf loss create dense, oil-rich, flammable fuel at tree base
Leaves contain high levels of flammable resin and oils
How to identify plants that should be replacedIf you’re unsure about which plants are hazardous in your customer’s landscape, survey what’s in place and determine if there are many plants with the following characteristics and attributes—especially within 10′ of structures.
It’s important to recognize that every plant in this list does not reflect every individual site’s condition, slope, aspect, moisture, or soil quality. All of which can influence a plant’s response to fire.
Fire-Hazardous Plants to remove + replace
|Botanical Name||Common Name|
|Adenostoma fasciculatum Chamise||Greasewood|
|Artemisia californica||Coastal Sagebrush|
|Baccharis spp.||Coyote Brush|
|Chamaecyparis spp.||False Cypress|
|Chrysolepis chrysophylla||Giant Chinquapin|
|Cortaderia jubata||Jubata Grass|
|Cortaderia selloana||Pampas Grass|
|Cytisus scoparius||Scotch Broom|
|Erigonum fasciculatum||California Buckwheat|
|Genista monspessulana||French Broom|
|Notholithocarpus densiflorus||Tan Oak, Tanbark Oak|
|Pennisetum spp.||Fountain Grass|
|Pickeringia montana||Chaparral Pea|
|Quercus spp.||Scrub Oak|
|Salvia mellifera||Black Sage|
|Spartium junceum||Spanish Broom|
|Umbellularia californica||California Bay|
|Vaccinium ovatum||Evergreen Huckleberry|
What should you replace fire-prone plants with?Consider replacing dangerous fire-prone plants with alternatives that have these characteristics and attributes.
However, they must also be maintained to improve ignition resistance. This includes keeping them free of dead material and providing adequate irrigation for exposure and local soil conditions.
With help from FIRE SAFE MARIN, you can download a helpful guide that identifies many attractive replacement recommendations for less flammable landscapes. Just click the button below.
While this list is not comprehensive, it can help you identify many alternatives that can be appropriate for your customers.
Create defensible space around structures by implementing and planting fire-resistant vegetation buffers. The design, location, and frequency of these non-combustible areas can be more important than individual plant selection.
Use non-combustible mulch, gravel, stone, concrete, or other hardscape material in your plan and between planted areas. These areas minimize ignition sources and reduce the opportunity for fire to advance throughout an area.
Integrate generous spacing between plants to reduce fuel concentration and limit fire spread.
Plants + trees need adequate water to survive and thrive. However, once established, many CA native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall. With appropriate water to support plant health and growth, you can prevent dead material build-up and reduce fire risk.
Regularly prune and maintain vegetation by removing dead or dry plant material. By limbing-up and removing ladder fuels beneath trees and shrubs, you can also reduce ignition sources.
Ready to replace fire-prone plants for your customers?For over 154 years, we have helped Bay Area Landscape Pros maintain and sustain fire-safe landscapes for their customers by having a large, available inventory of replacement plants + trees in just the right sizes.
If you want to learn more about selecting fire-safe plants for your project, contact any of our Customer Service experts by clicking on the PHONE icon below their name to call. Or click on the ENVELOPE icon below their name to send an email directly to them.
If that’s all too complicated, just reach out at 650.755.2330.
If the fire-safe plants or trees that you want are not on our list, we’ll do all that we can to get you what you want, when you need it.
As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right fire-safe plants and trees that will make your project a success with your clients—including California-native plants.
We can also provide an Estimate for one item or for an entire installation. Just attach your Microsoft Excel .xlsx plant list to our ONLINE ESTIMATE | ORDER FORM.
As Director of Operations, Will Baldocchi focuses on operations management, sales, and how to improve the customer experience at Pacific Nurseries. He also continues a proud family tradition of helping Bay Area Landscape Professionals succeed with high-quality landscape material and great service. Email Will or give him a call at 650.755.2330.