Firesmart Landscaping

Diposting oleh alexandria joseph | 03.00

Known as the Aspen Fire, it was one of the most devastating fires here in Tucson.  The flames engulfed the Santa Catalina mountains while Tucson watched in horror as the fire consumed the forests and cabins in the town of Summerhaven above.
Every year, sometimes as early as mid-March here in Tucson, our fire season begins and lasts until the beginning of monsoon season (at the end of June or first week of July).  The worst times for extreme fire seasons are when we don't have a lot of rain and everything is dry or when we have large lightening storms without rain.  Fire is both natural and good for our environments as it replenishes our soil for new growth and life in our areas.  However, it seems that over the years in Tucson, we've had longer and hotter fire seasons.  During times of drought, the fire season can get out of control like it did on Mt. Lemmon back in 2003. The fire was suspected as human caused and named the Aspen fire. At the time, I was renting an apartment in the Foothills and watched the fire every night as it got closer and closer to our homes.  Wildlife fled the fires to the lower part of the mountains or canyons while many others perished. It only took a spark to ignite the explosive fires. Our friends had just purchased a cabin on top of Mt. Lemmon in the little village of Summerhaven.  In fact, they had signed the paperwork a day before the fire began to become new cabin owners.  Summerhaven exploded into flame and over 300 cabins were destroyed including businesses and a people's way of life.  Fire, being unpredictable like it is, swirled around my friend's cabin unscathed and spared a row of homes while torching the rest to the ground only several meters away!! One afternoon, a mushroom cloud formed on top of the mountain and everyone knew that Summerhaven was hit. Gas tanks exploded releasing even more fuel for the uncontrolled fire.  All that remained of these places were their stone chimneys.  Millions of dollars and several years later, Summerhaven is still rebuilding itself today.  Trees are growing back into place as it will take years for the area to parallel its former self. This brings me to today's topic......being firewise in your landscape.

This video was pulled off of Youtube.  I had my own recording with a bad camera, but I lost the file this demonstrates the intensity of the fire thanks to eric22rr.

The following article is from Phoenix Home and Garden, May 2009
"Dangerous for life and property, the growing number of wildfires in Arizona also has had a devastating effect on native desert vegetation plants that once helped to keep fires under control.  The primary cause is litter produced by winter grasses that were introduced from African and Middle Eastern regions.  These plants flourish with winter rains, they tend to dry out in the late springs and provide a carpet of fuel ready to ignite when lightning strikes.  The Sonoran Desert wasn't always prone to frequent wildfires.  Native plants reduced the competition for scarce moisture and nutrients, leaving bare open space between cacti and shrubs.  Such open spaces offered a bonus.  Without a continuous mat of dried plant material as fuel, fire was less likely to spread.  However, in recent decades, non-native grasses in the low desert have drastically increased the frequency and devastation of wildfires by filling previously bare soil surfaces with flammable weed litter.  As encroachment on the desert continues, urban communities are being threatened by wildfires because dried weeds burn "hot and fast".  So how do we try and keep our gardens and homes firesmart? Create a defensible space.  The defensible space is the area surrounding structures where flammable material(living or dead plants, firewood, wooden fences or stored gasoline) has been removed or maintained so that the movement of a wildfire toward a structure is slowed.  This creates a safer area for firefighters to work.

Plant ornamental species that have high moisture content, including cacti and succulents, as well as deciduous foliage plants.  Avoid vegetation with high resin content, such as pines, junipers and Arizona cypress.  Avoid planting anything within 3 to 5 feet of a structure.  Plants near structures should be low-growing and widely spaced.  Group plants in small clusters throughout the landscape, rather than grouping large masses of plant material. Use masonry walls or paths made of gravel, flagstone or recycled concrete to break up continuous lines of plant material.  Do not allow tree branches to touch structures or other trees.  Allow at least 10 feet between tree canopies.  If possible, do not plant trees within 15 feet of a house.  If you must keep an existing tree, expand the size of defensible space around it." End of article. 

Finally watch for any grasses you plant around your place.  They are really lovely plants but can become invasive and crowd out native plants.  The Fountain Grass is an example of something that can spread quickly.  Buffelgrass has taken over our Sonoran desert and threatens to kill our native species. This grass was once used for cattle on ranches.  Today it is an invasive grass that is burning up our desert.  Every year masses of people get together to pull these plants out of areas that it has overtaken. Be careful during this hot fire season. Until tomorrow......

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