Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gardens and Fire

Smoke from the Sedgewick Fire at Sunrise

The Zaca fire had Santa Barbara packed and ready to move. The environmental, health and financial impacts will reverberate for a very long time. Yet how fortunate were we to have favorable weather and tireless efforts from local and faraway firefighters?

Seeing what’s going on in the Southland this week, we can hardly complain. As of this writing, there are over 500 structures destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people displaced and lives turned on their heads. On NPR this morning was the story of a single dad with 8-year old twin girls (one of them asthmatic) who were awoken in the middle of the night and told to get out. Left behind where pets (three goldfish named Larry, Moe and Curly, plus a cat), cell phone, credit cards - you get the point. The apartment complex burned to the ground – how do you console your daughters and start over? I can’t even begin to imagine.

So this morning, I drove to Santa Barbara’s Firescape Demonstration Garden at Mission Ridge and Stanwood Drive (right across from the fire station near the Sheffield Reservoir). Earlier this year Owen Dell (the other Garden Wise Guy) and I redesigned this invaluable resource co-managed by the City of Santa Barbara Fire Department and the Water Conservation program.
SB's Finest

The purpose of the Firescape Garden is to educate homeowners in fire prone areas about the best way to create defensible space around their homes. For more information about how to create a more firesafe landscape, read the City of Santa Barbara guidelines for landscaping.

The demonstration garden was given a complete face-lift after almost 25 years of service. Lots of plant material was removed, attractive plants were arranged as they would be used in a home garden, and the principles of protecting your home from wildfire were implemented.

The purpose of this blog post isn’t to explain those principles in detail, but to encourage readers to take proactive steps to give fire fighters a fighting chance to protect you and your neighbors. It’s actually quite simple – manage the potential fuel around your home and break the “fuel ladder.”

Bulbine and boulders

If you live in an area that would even remotely be vulnerable to wildfire (remember – the Paint fire crossed Highway 101 and jumped into Hope Ranch before the weather miraculously turned the fire back on itself) promise yourself that you’ll visit the Firescape Garden, read the material posted on the kiosks, have someone from the fire department visit your home for an assessment, and be prepared to make some changes to your landscape.

The following photos show the garden today, just a few months after its June 2007 installation. It might not make the cover of Sunset Magazine just yet, but it’s heading that way. There are many styles of plants (not just succulents and rocks) for many situations. No excuse; you can do this. What would you rather do – sift through the ashes or make a few compromises in your garden?

Sorry for the lack of pithy humor that is my trademark. This is deadly serious stuff.

Entrance to Firescape Garden

Info kiosk - here's how it works

Could you live with this?

3 comments:

Queen Whackamole said...

Thanks, Wise Guy... valuable and timely information. The firescape garden is an inspiration!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Excellent post Billy. I heard about the fire in Santa Barbara on the news. Fortunately my country is still far too wet for me to be in danger of wildfires. ;-)

Your post is a great wake up call for all people who live in an area that's vulnerable to wildfire.

Live and learn people!

Bare Bones Gardener said...

Living in Aus, we are just as prone to bushfires as you, and having lived through a couple over the years. I really second all you say on this.