Tuolumne County Fire Landscaping

Highway 108 FireSafe Council
Tuolumne County FireSafe Landscaping
How to protect your investment against wildfire destruction

Fire is a Fact of Life

Tuolumne County is home to some of the most scenic vistas in the world. The natural beauty and mild, Mediterranean climate have attracted us to settle here.

However, living in the mountains means learning to live with fire. That is because our scenic vistas are fire-dependent. Fire cracks seed casings, allowing our native plants to thrive. In addition, it clears out dead brush that can choke living plants and cut off food for wildlife.

So why are today’s fires so devastating, destroying our neighborhoods, taking our homes, possessions and even lives?

The answer lies in our own backyards.

Your Best Defense Against Fire

Firefighters agree: It is not if, but when, fire will bum through an area. In addition, there are not enough fire engines to protect every house. Firefighters need your help to give your home a fighting chance.

The single most important feature that will help your home stand alone against fire and give firefighters a base to battle the flames is A FIRE SAFE LANDSCAPE.

What is a Fire Safe Landscape?

A fire safe landscape is not necessarily the same thing as a well-manicured yard. A fire safe landscape uses fire resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home.

The good news is you do not need a lot of money to make your landscape fire safe. Moreover, you will find that a fire safe landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.

Defensible Space

Defensible space is the base around your home that will give firefighters a fighting chance against wildland fire. It means clearing all dry grass, brush and dead leaves at least 30 feet from your home, and at least 150 feet if you are on a hill.

The key here is “at least.” The Tuolumne County Fire Department may ask for greater clearance. Contact them for requirements in your area.

Defensible space and a fire safe landscape do not mean a ring of bare dirt around your home. When establishing your landscape, keep trees furthest from your house, shrubs can be closer, and bedding plants and lawns are nearest the house.

Your home may be the biggest investment you ever make. Protect that investment by following the steps below to create a FireSafe landscape.


  • Assess your fire risk. Is your home on a hill? Are you near highly flammable native vegetation or drought ­damaged ornamental plants? If your answer is yes, your fire risk is greater than average.
  • Plan your landscape to reduce the amount of flammable vegetation nearest your home.
  • Establish defensible space.
  • Consider consulting your local nursery or a landscape contractor to help plan your landscape.


  • Eliminate the “fire ladder.” Fire needs fuel to burn. You can sap its strength by robbing it of the continuous sequence of vegetation that can carry flames from your landscape to your house.
  • Group plants of similar height and water requirements to create a “landscape mosaic” that can slow the spread of fire and use water most efficiently.
  • Space trees at least 10 feet apart, and keep branches trimmed at least 10 feet from your roof. For trees taller than 18 feet, prune lower branches within six feet of the ground.
  • Install fire resistant, drought-tolerant plants that have high moisture content. Use plants that do not accumulate dead leaves or twigs.
  • Use masonry or stonewalls to separate plant groups and add variety to your landscape.


  • Choose the right irrigation system. While all plants will eventually burn, healthy plants burn less quickly. Your plant selection and water availability will determine the right system for you.
  • Consider drip irrigation for watering most of your landscape. It is effective and conserves water because it targets where the water goes and how much gets there.
  • Use sprinklers for lawns or turf landscaping. Drip irrigation does not work well on lawns. Sprinklers on timers ensure your lawn is getting the right amount of water to keep it healthy and fire resistant.


  • Keep your landscape healthy and clean. On a regular basis, remove dead branches, leaves and pine needles from your yard. These can serve as added fuel to a fire.
  • Prune and thin shrubs, trees and other plants to minimize the fuel load. Be diligent about cleaning up, especially during fire season. Remove dead leaves from under the plants as well.
  • Involve your gardener. If a gardener cares for your property, ask him or her to include these regular maintenance steps as part of the routine service.
  • Recycle/compost plant materials. Participate in your community’s green waste recycling program. You can also compost plant litter and create a money-saving alternative to store-bought soil and mulch.