by Charlene Burgi
As I drove to my friend’s house the other day, I noted several fire trucks parked at a local motel in town. I wondered if a meeting was being held, or if they were out patrolling for potential fire hazards. After all, the temperatures throughout the state have been exceedingly high, and the late rains exacerbated the growth of wildland grasses.
The appearance of these shiny red beasts piqued my curiosity. Upon inquiring, I learned there were several fires that started in the surrounding area due to lightning strikes here in Lassen County. I shared this information with my granddaughter in Marin, and I learned there was the rumble of thunder there as well. The alerts were heard!
Fire season is always a concern, and for some reason this year it feels like it has arrived earlier than in years past. The memory of last year’s losses in Sonoma and Napa counties preyed heavily on my mind. I rattled off a mental checklist of fire-season chores and thought I would share it with you as well.
- Clean all debris from the outer perimeter of the property including any dried leaves under shrubs and trees.
- Keep trees limbed up to at least six feet.
- Keep plants hydrated.
- Remove any limbs that overhang your roof or grow near a chimney.
- Keep grasses cut down.
- Avoid using open burning firepits—especially during hot, dry days.
- If driving off road, do not drive in high grasses.
- Pay attention to Red Flag Warnings and adhere to the protocol for that day.
| Creating defensible space with low-growing groundcovers
If installing new plants:
- Choose plants that have grayer foliage and do not contain oils. These plants typically don’t burn as readily and as a bonus are typically drought resistant. Note however that some plants with gray-type foliage (such as eucalyptus) contain oils and should be avoided.
- Allow plenty of space between plants so they are not touching each other. Plants that are too close together provide a continuous fuel source for fire.
- Well-irrigated groundcovers and low-growing plants around the house will also help curtail the advancement of fire.
- If you live on a hillside, space the plants much further apart.
Lastly the subject of mulch: Do NOT use shredded bark or gorilla hair. Thick layers (at least three inches) of chipped wood or other organic mulch will work just fine—plus it will feed the soil as it breaks down.
We have a ways to go before fire season is again behind us. Be thoughtful, be careful and be fire safe.
Stump the Stars
Several readers correctly identified the mystery plant pictured in last week’s blog
(and also visible in the photo above) as mullein (Verbascum thapsus