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Smart landscaping could prevent future wildfire home damage, injury

Wildfire-blackened hillsides like this one above Lehi, pictured on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, could be even drier this summer with much of the state facing drought conditions. Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah is in a drought, it’s dry out there, you know this; but have you thought about how much landscaping could keep your home safer from wildfire damage?

Utah State University says the risk of a home burning is a direct correlation to nearby flammable material. Forestry experts say a few hours of yard work could prevent the unthinkable from happening as we get deeper into this year’s fire season and with an ongoing drought.

USU suggests we can preemptively help firefighters and increase safety by doing simple things like keeping leaves or pine needles from accumulating, pruning trees and bushes, and making sure wooded areas around the property are thinned out and far from homes.

Don’t assume your safety

USU extension forestry specialist Dr. Michael Kuhns says people often think their homes will be fine if a wildfire approaches. He warns simply evacuating during an emergency does not keep your home protected.

“It takes an acreage or area bigger than most people own to have control over so that you’re pretty sure you won’t suffer fire disaster,” says Dr. Kuhns. “You’re really not out from under hazard until you’re maybe 150 feet or so from the structure.”

Since many of us don’t own acres upon acres of land, there are some simple steps we can take right now.

“The plants you use, how you arrange them in the landscape, and then how you maintain them. Those three areas are the most important,” explains Dr. Kuhns.

You don’t have to do it alone

As with most problems in life, they are sometimes best tackled with a little help. Dr. Kuhns says that goes for “firewise landscaping,” too.

“Not that many people have 150 feet all the way around their property,” says Dr. Kunhns. “Therefore, they need to know their neighbors in regard to what they’re doing about fire and what they can do together.” 

Unfortunately, he says most people probably don’t have those conversations with people living nearby. He suggests starting that ritual ASAP.

There are plenty of other ways to protect your property. Dr. Kuhns wrote a booklet with Utah State University on this very topic.

The booklet is called “Firewise Landscaping for Utah” and you can download a free PDF copy here.

 

Other Reading:

Scout camp evacuated as wildfire burns near Soldier Summit

“Nothing looks good” preparing for summer wildfire season

Fire Safety in Utah is crucial during wildfire season