Fight fires with appropriate landscaping | South Coast

CORVALLIS Drawing a line around the house with fire-resistant landscapes can mean the difference between a home consumed by flames and one left standing.

“Fire specialists often show pictures of houses where people took adequate precautions,” said Brad Withrow-Robinson, forester with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. “I’ve seen lots of photos of land charred all around and a house left standing in the middle because the owners created a fire-resistant space next to it. Not always, but often.”

It’s fire season again, and people who live in rural areas or on rural-urban boundaries throughout the state need to exercise caution.

“People tend to think of wild fire as an issue only in central or eastern Oregon,” Withrow-Robinson said.  “But the vigorous, dense growth typical of western Oregon, along with our hot, dry summers, means we have a significant fire danger most years here, too.”

People should create and maintain “defensible space” around their homes. Among other things, these areas should be free from brush, debris and firewood, have irrigated zones near the house and feature fire-resistant plants.

Co-author Brooke Edmunds, a horticulturist with OSU’s Extension Service, said the guide features 170 plants that thrive in the Willamette Valley. Plants are organized into ground covers, perennials, vines, shrubs and trees. Icons indicate what level of water and sun a plant needs, as well as other details such as deer-resistance, and if it attracts bees, butterflies or birds. Height, width and hardiness information and other descriptions are also included.

“No plant is fire-proof,” Edmunds said, “but some are considered fire resistant.”

In general, these are plants with more supple leaves without a waxy or resinous surface. Such plants don’t readily ignite. They may be damaged or even…

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