Wildfires and defensible space: What you should know

Aug 7, 2020, 10:36 AM by Fred Speer

With names like Apple, Hog, North, and Pond, this year’s wildfires sound harmless enough. But with Cal Fire estimating more than 94,000 acres (and counting) burned, and with 5,000-plus fire incidents so far this season, they are anything but harmless.

Clark Pest Control has a long history of protecting homes from destructive pest's including termites and rodents. We can help you design a defensible space around your home by using vegetation management.

What is a defensible space around your home, and why is it important? Defensible space is a spatial barrier between your home and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This space is designed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire, and it should protect your home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat.

Vegetation management includes the removal of dead plants, shrubs, and trees, combined with the application of preemergent herbicides in the fall, to curb weed growth the following spring. Doing this will form a defensible space around your home.

Clark, your neighborly pest control, termite, and lawn care expert, says that creating defensible space is essential to improving your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire.

Clark has proven results from its custom-designed vegetation management programs. Last year, a successfully executed program saved two homes by creating one-acre defensible spaces below a ridgeline where the homes were located. When the fire came up the hill, it went around the homes, and they were not damaged.

A fire-resistant landscape isn’t the same thing as a smartly designed and well-maintained yard. A smartly designed landscape will use fire-resistant plants that are strategically located to resist the spread of fire to your home. The added benefit of using fire-resistant plants is that they are often drought tolerant, too.

Three tips to help create an effective defensible space

1.     Plant and tree spacing

The spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees is crucial to reduce the spread of wildfires. The spacing needed is determined by the type and size of brush and trees, as well as the slope of the land. For example, a property on a steep slope with larger vegetation requires greater spacing between trees and shrubs than a level property that has small, sparse vegetation.

2.     Vertical spacing

Remove all tree branches at least six feet from the ground. Allow extra vertical space between shrubs and trees. Lack of vertical space can allow a fire to move from the ground to the brush to the treetops like a ladder.

3.     Choose fire-resistant plants and materials

The good news is that you don’t need a lot of money to make your landscape fire resistant. Also, you’ll find that a fire-resistant landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.

  • Create fire-resistant zones with stone walls, patios, decks, and roadways.
  • Use rock, mulch, flower beds, and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.
  • There are no truly fireproof plants. Select high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.
  • Choose fire-retardant plant species that resist ignition, such as rockrose, ice plant and aloe.
  • Select fire-resistant shrubs such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.
  • Plant hardwood, maple, poplar, and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir, and other conifers.


Also, remember the six “Ps” in case you must evacuate your home immediately:


1.     People and pets

2.     Papers, phone numbers, and important documents

3.     Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses

4.     Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia

5.     Personal computer hard drives and disks

6.     “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash

Call or text Clark at (800) WE-NEED-YOU (936-3339) if you need help preparing defensible space around your home or business. You can also send an e-mail to for more information.

Until next time, the pest management professionals at Clark Pest Control thank you for helping to  keep unwanted pests out of your home and yard.

Note: Portions of this blog were adapted from the Cal Fire website (

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