Designing a Fire Resistant Landscape


Over these past few years homes throughout California have been destroyed by the many wildfires that have raged through our state.  There are many ways that homeowners can protect their loved ones and their homes through fire-wise landscaping and maintenance.   

Designing a Fire-Resistant Landscape- The following tips are helpful considerations when designing your landscape.

Firescape_image-planFirescaping Zone Theory - This utilizes four zones including the Garden Zone closest to the house, Greenbelt/Fuel Break Zone, Transitional Zone, and a Native or Natural Zone.

The Garden Zone (Zone 1) extends 30 feet out from the house and contains plants that are fleshier and moist as well as deciduous trees. The goal is to create a space that is able to withstand flying embers and intense heat.

The Greenbelt/Fuel Break Zone (Zone 2) extends from 31 feet to 70 feet away from the house and increases in distance depending on the degree of slope found on the property. The goal is to stop a ground fire before it reaches the Garden Zone.

Firescape_image-spacingThe Transition Zone (Zone 3) reaches from 71 feet to 120 feet away from the house. The distance increases due to slope. The goal of this zone is to dramatically slow a fire by using low growing plants that can survive in natural soils and can be weaned off of supplemental water once established while maintaining fire resistance.

The Native Zone or Natural Zone (Zone 4) extends out 120 feet and beyond away from the house. The primary goal of this area is to reduce the severity of a fire by removing dead wood and thinning plant material.

Islands of Plants - Continuous rows of plants create a fire pathway through the landscape; use islands of plants instead with separation between them.

Less is More - Having less plants and allowing them to fill in over time will not only keep fire areas isolated but will also reduce the amount of watering and maintenance requirements. Trees should be placed far enough apart to help avoid a canopy fire.

Plants - Deciduous plants are less flammable than evergreen trees. Broadleaf plants with moist, flexible and thick leaves are less flammable than plants with needle or bladelike leaves that are stiff, leather-like, and fine or thin. Avoid choosing plants that create a large amount of litter or produces sap that is gummy and resinous. Plants with fragrance or hairy leaves also tend to have a higher fuel content.

Understory Plants - All tree litter should be removed and understory plants should be placed 10 feet past the drip line of the tree.


Firescaping by Doug Kent, Published by Wilderness Press,

EARTHSCAPES is a local Landscape design, installation, and maintenance company specializing in water conserving landscapes. EARTHSCAPES has been serving San Luis Obispo County for over 20 years and their staff is dedicated to bringing the highest quality of service and satisfaction to customers by creating and maintaining quality outdoor living environments with integrity. For more information about FIRESCAPING, please contact us at: (805) 545-9600, by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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