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KayDee Gilkey Fighting Fire With Plants
by KayDee Gilkey, click here for bio

Program: Farm and Ranch Report
Date: August 14, 2012

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Download Report: NWFR 08-14-12 FireResistant plangs WEB.mp3

Fighting Fire With Plants

I’m KayDee Gilkey with the Northwest Farm and Ranch Report.

With the hot dry summer weather and the wildfire season upon us, it's a good time to look at your yard and see if it's a fire hazard.

One way to reduce the risk of a fire engulfing your house is by surrounding it with fire-resistant plants. Such plants do not readily ignite. They may be damaged or even killed by fire, but their foliage and stems do not significantly contribute to a fire's intensity.

Amy Jo Detweiler, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, shares some of these plants’ desirable characteristics.

Detweiler: “You are going to want plants that don’t really accumulate deadwood as they mature or dry material. It is good to have plants that don’t have a strong odor to them either in the needles or foliage when they are crushed. Because that could be a indication of resin or sap-like material that might be flammable. So you are looking for leaves that are more moist and supple when you crush them in your hand that contain more water.”

Detweiler says that using fire-resistant plants are only one piece of creating defensible space around your home. It is also important to use fire resistant building materials and reduce those wildfire fuels.

She says proper plant maintenance is also a factor.

Detweiler: “It is critical to keep them well maintained. A fire resistant plant will not keep properties of being fire resistant if it is not being watered and it starts having some die back or dead material accumulating. So it is just important to keep it well maintained and know that there are a lot of great choices of colors and textures all the way from ground cover up to trees.”

I’m KayDee Gilkey with the Northwest Farm and Ranch Report on the Northwest Ag Information Network.

The plants, accompanied by color photos, are described in a 48-page guide, Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes (PNW 590), published by the OSU Extension Service. The guide is available free online, or purchase a printed copy from the Extension catalog.

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