How To Create A Fire Defensible Landscape


– Hey, Curtis, this
is one of the areas that the fire came
right up to, but because of the defensible space that
the owner on the property here was trying to achieve, he
was able to save his property. – Welcome to today’s
Southwest Yard and Garden. I’m Curtis Smith. I’m here with Los Alamos
County agent Carlos Valdez. And he can tell us about
this property, which is one of the ones that survived
because of the landscaping here. Carlos? – Curtis, what we have here
is one of the historic houses here in Los Alamos. This is the old Bradbury house. And the gentleman who is
now here, Howard Cady, has been working closely
with state forestry, with myself, and
with the US Forest Service in getting
this area thinned to the proper number
of trees in here so that when fire did
move through here, it moved in through at a
very low to a medium heat, and actually did not get
up into the tree crowns and scorch the trees. And another thing
that he did in here was create some access
lanes so that the local fire department could come in
and defend this property. And there are two access
lanes on this property– one on this side, another on
the other side of the house. And it was because
of those access lanes and because of the communication
that this gentleman had with the fire
department that they were able to come in here
quickly and manage this fire. – So he created a situation that
invited the fire department in, and that resulted in
his house being safe, in addition to the fact
that he had thinned. – Right. Exactly right. – And I notice here
the fire had not gone into the crown of the trees. It was a ground fire. We’ve got scorched needles,
but the trees themselves weren’t burning. – Sure. And remembering, of course,
that Ponderosa pines have got a fairly thick bark
and were actually made for these low to
medium intensity fires. It’s when it gets up into
the crowns of the trees where the trees
don’t have a chance. – George Duda, urban forester
with New Mexico State Forestry Division, is one
of the people who’s been working with
Carlos to advise the homeowner in this location. And George, you’ve been
giving advice about how to space the plants here,
how to thin the forest. What is that you’ve
been telling him? – Well, defensible
space is the key word, and how to control a fire
and have an advantage over a fire near your home. We’re standing in an
area that’s been thinned. The trees are 10,
12, 15 feet apart. The ladder fuels are
almost nonexistent. – And ladder fuel is that
which would bring fire from the ground up– – Up into the tree. Exactly. And these trees are alive. They’re well. They’re scorched a little bit,
but they’re going to survive. And the key factor
in that was thinning, removing ladder fuels, and
spacing these trees out. We can look in the
back, way back here, and you can see in
the background there’s a stand of trees there
that could represent 1,000 trees to the acre. A fire gets in there and
the heat is very intense. We have a lot of damage. When you space these trees
out and get them far apart, the heat is reduced and
these trees can survive. A forest can survive a fire
if the forest is ready for it. – This kind of forest. – This kind of a forest, yes. – And the Ponderosa is
actually designed for fire. – Yes, it’s a fire dependent
species, as a matter of fact. And look on the ground. The homeowner here
did not necessarily rake up the needles. However, that burned
on the ground. There was a separation
between the ground fire and the top of the trees. Again, the elimination
of the ladder fuels. And these ashes you
see on the ground now have been recycled
into nutrients. The trees will actually be
benefited by that to an extent. And it works well
under these conditions. – I see some scrub here, the
oak’s regenerating already. – Yes, the oaks are
coming up already. They have a root collar
beneath the soil that spouts when there’s a problem. There was a problem here. So you’re going to have oaks
come back almost automatically. But defensible
space is the word. Don’t be afraid to cut a
few trees because we can save our forest by doing so. – The grass is good. – Well, I see another
benefit of clearing. There’s firewood here,
which is useful here in this cold climate
during the winter. – There are many, many
benefits to defensible space. Not only forest health, forest
safety, structure safety, but here’s another benefit. This fuel is in the right place. It will wind up in a
fireplace under control and provide us heat. This kind of fuel
out in that forest can add to the danger of
threatening the taller trees as ladder fuels and
destroy this forest, as well as this home. So this is a good
spot for this fuel. – What’s ironic is
there’s firewood here, there was a fire all around it,
and the firewood didn’t burn. – The firewood didn’t burn. So it’s– – It’s still available– – It’s still available to use. – If it’d been in the
forest it would have burned. – It would burned. – It would have been unusable. – That’s right. – It would have
created more hazards. – So there’s many, many
benefits to defensible space. – This is awesome. The fire came right up to here. Even burned cactus. It looks like it stopped
right here at the fence. Actually, Curtis, the
fire moved past the fence right up to this
small ridge here. On this side of the
ridge, they didn’t bother to water the lawn. But on this side, the
lawn was well watered. – So they had an established
bluegrass lawn here. And it’s looking beautiful. And the other grass
is coming back fine. And look, it just scorched
these trees right here. – Scorched these trees. – Didn’t burn ’em up. But scorched them pretty good. But the fire, again,
stopped right here. And then the grass right
here saved the house, and the house is in good shape. – Right, whereas the
properties next door and adjacent to this property
weren’t quite so lucky. – This fire stopped right here. And the landscape has
a lot to do with that. – Absolutely. – If trees were not dense–
there are trees here and there’s shade here, but
it wasn’t so dense and it wasn’t the kind of trees that
would cause the fire to move right in. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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