ENCINITAS, Calif., April 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Spring is the best time in California to perform fuel modification maintenance for fire protection planning as vegetation starts to dry out, advises Dudek a California environmental firm specializing in fire prevention planning. It is also the time property owners may be receiving notices from their local fire department regarding overgrown lots.
Fuel maintenance should focus on dead and dying plants, highly flammable species, thick vegetation, and 'ladder' fuels that reach tree canopies, said Michael Huff, Dudek's fire protection planning manager.
"Each site's environment determines the fire risk and how wide a defensible space needs to extend from structures," Huff said. "One hundred feet is the norm but very hazardous sites may require more than 200 feet while flat landscapes with predominantly grass ground cover and an ignition-resistant structure may justify reduced defensible space."
Where 100 feet of defensible space is not possible, a fire protection plan can justify use of alternative materials and methods that will allow a fire authority to make a finding that equivalent protection is achieved, he said.
Effective fuel modification does not necessarily mean clearing-cutting an area. While many ordinances refer to clearing vegetation, proper fuel modification includes selective thinning vegetation to reduce fuel load and planting fire-resistant species to reduce fire risk while maintaining vegetative cover for erosion control protection.
Huff offered the following tips for implementing fuel modification plans:
- Remove, thin, or replace combustible vegetation
- Plant adequately spaced, drought-tolerant and fire-resistant plants
- Comply with U.S. Fish & Wildlife regulations when working in sensitive habitat areas
- Be aware of bird nesting and breeding seasons that may limit ability to work in and around sensitive areas
- Install and manage irrigation designed for optimal vegetation management in defensible space
- Be knowledgeable of seasonal erosion issues and the effect on vegetation management
"When fuel modification is required in areas with native plant species, it is key to have trained staff who can implement vegetation thinning and maintenance while complying with local, state, and federal agency regulations," Huff said.
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