Brush Management Strategies
Brush management is the removal of woody (meaning non-herbaceous or succulent) plants, including those that are considered invasive or noxious. It involves clearing areas of native growth from residential and commercial structures that border open space areas. While brush management is typically associated with wildfire season, the increased rainfall during the spring season creates significant new growth that must also be maintained. Years of drought coupled with high temperatures during wildfire season increases the flammability risk of this new growth vegetation for HOAs and commercial properties. This risk increases even further with the onset of the seasonal Santa Ana winds.
Brush management serves many purposes including decreasing fire hazards around existing structures, helping firefighters protect property when wildfires strike, and restoring natural vegetation to protect from erosion. Brush management is a key component to protecting communities in southern California and should be an integral part of any landscaping plan.
It is important (and required) to maintain a defensible fire space around structures for protection against fire. Defensible space is an area around a structure where combustible vegetation (any material that left in its natural state will readily ignite, burn and cause fire to move to any structure or other vegetation) has been cleared, reduced, or replaced. Defensible space acts as a barrier between structures and advancing fires. Combustible vegetation should be cleared in a 100 foot radius from any structure. Local fire agencies may also require additional clearing beyond the 100 foot mark.
Brush Management Strategies
Strategies to consider in brush management planning should include the following:
- Plan ahead and identify which areas or specific plants and trees require brush management.
- Clear as much loose dead wood and any invasive species possible which will allow you to see which other plants and trees need care and pruning.
- Thin the plants and trees in the area. Plants over 2 feet tall should be trimmed to a height of 6 inches. This ensures the roots will remain intact to help minimize soil erosion.
- Once the thinning process is completed, prune any plants or groups of plants that remain. Depending on what type of plants remain, the “umbrella” technique should be used where possible. The “umbrella” technique utilizes pruning the lower branches to create umbrella-shaped canopies.
- Get rid of the cuttings and dead wood by either chipping the wood and returning it to the property or by hauling it to a landfill.
- Continue to monitor the plants year-round as they will grow back and require more thinning and pruning.
- Plant fire-resistant, irrigated landscaping within the first 50 feet of the 100 foot defensible space around structures. Keep natural vegetation in the remaining 50 feet of the defensible space.
- Fire-resistant plants grow close to the ground; have a low sap or resin content; grow without accumulating dead branches, leaves, and needles; can be easily maintained and/or pruned; and are drought-tolerant.
- Trim any trees that overhang or come in contact with structures.
- Properly irrigate plants to prevent flammability. Permanent irrigation should be maintained within the first 50 feet of defensible space. Drought-tolerant trees and shrubs can be maintained by deep watering once a month; high water requiring plants should be watered once per week.
Benchmark Landscape urges its clients to take precautions and establish a brush management plan before wildfire season is upon us. Contact your Account Representative about brush management strategies for more information. We’re here to assist you any way we can with your landscape needs.