We desperately need fuels reduction work throughout and all around our community. USFS and Tahoe Donner have been doing some terrific projects in quite a few outlying, surrounging locations but we need a great deal IN town, on open space and public (plus many private) lands. Truckee Fire’s “Wildfire Protection” Measure T, on the September 14, 2021 special election ballot, Information About Measure T
Fire Resistive Landscaping in Truckee
Many common plants naturally resist fire and can even slow its spread. In general, irrigated and well-maintained leafy plants absorb heat and then burn slowly. Avoid any masses of plants that accumulate dead branches and twigs or plants that produce oils, resins, waxes or terpenes (i.e. junipers). Replace bare spaces and weed patches near your home with ground covers, turf, perennial flower beds, vegetable gardens, fire resistant clump grasses, and mulches. Lawns and mowed meadows are examples of the most excellent defensible “Clean, Green and Lean” landscape spaces.
Mulches help reduce erosion and dust, conserve moisture, improve air quality, improve the vigor of plants, and reduce weed growth. Mulch can be organic compost, bark chips, shredded leaves, or lawn clippings (the best for forest plant health); or it can be mineral gravel, rock, or decomposed granite. Avoid using a thick layer of pine needles unless it is thoroughly composted. Wood-chip mulch will be rapidly colonized by saprophytic fungi, especially if occasionally irrigated, and thoroughly after a winter and the abundant and ubiquitous fungal mycelium aids in substantially decreasing wood-chip combustibility.
Villager Nursery has compiled this list of fire resistive plants that should be considered when landscaping. We have gleaned only the hardiest species and appropriate comments (for Truckee) from lists by fire departments, departments of forestry and from fire management and prevention agencies ALL around the northern hemisphere.
By replacing highly flammable vegetation with recommended species, you can improve the survivability of your home when wildfires threaten. To preserve their fire resistance, plants must be irrigated and pruned to remove dead branches and maintain plant health. Routine care will also provide an attractive defensible space. Contact Villager Nursery for selections appropriate to your microclimate and please contact Truckee Fire Department and visit the websites listed below for much more information about fire-wise communities.
Defensible space is not “clear-cutting” nor the removal of ALL vegetation. Creating defensible space involves removal of fire hazards and managing vegetation. This may be as simple as moving a woodpile, cutting back a stand of brush or planting fire-resistant plants. Defensible space can slow the progress of fire and provides firefighters a safe position from which to defend structures. Maintaining Defensible Space is the responsibility of each and every resident and homeowner in order to protect our neighbors and to our entire community. Maintaining defensible space is an act of self preservation AND altruism; it is really more about protecting your community if your house is on fire than it is about protecting just your house. (…kind-of-like vaccines).
The Truckee Fire Resistive Landscaping (2020) PDF has lists of suggested plant materials.
Herbaceous Perennials and Groundcovers – Hardy herbaceous perennials thrive our climate. Green, leafy, and succulent fire-resistive plants are very slow to burn and absorb heat. There are hundreds more species and cultivated varieties (cultivars) not included in the attached list. Irrigation and regular weeding improves fire resistance in all gardens.
Shrubs – Deciduous shrubs can be used in foundation plantings if maintained, watered, and well spaced. Avoid evergreen dwarf conifers and junipers near structures. Place them at least twenty feet from any structure and prune regularly. If maintained, hedge rows can deflect wind and filter wind-blown embers. Plant dense deciduous hedges at least thirty feet from structures only if they’ll receive regular irrigation and maintenance..
Trees – Deciduous trees can be clumped, scattered, or planted in greenbelts or windbreak patterns. Evergreen trees are generally somewhat flammable and should be well spaced if planted at all. Placement of trees is often more important than the species. Space conifer trees at least thirty feet apart and prune mature specimens to a height of at least eight feet (do not limb ten foot trees, eight-feet up). A healthy, well established conifer may thrive with only the top one third of its total height in well-foliated branches. Crowns should not touch and branches should not overhang structures. Remove combustible material from under and between trees. Mulch generally retains moisture and helps trees remain healthy and well hydrated.
A deciduous screen can slow or even stop a fire before it reaches structures. Aspen, birch, maple, poplar and willow require some irrigation to remain fire resistant. -Forest managers frequently use the term “firebreak” to describe quaking aspen- usfs
Fire protection districts throughout the mountain west encourage planting of aspen and willow (“asbestos-type” trees) to slow or stop the spread of wildfire. Natural aspen stands are dying-out throughout the Sierras as conifers are allowed to move into them and shade them out. The native aspen stands in the Sierras are all clones from seeds started over 10,000 years ago near the end of the last ice age.
• Planting Aspen Trees to Protect Communities from Wildfire
• “asbestos-type” trees
Cutting-down dense stands of healthy native aspen and willow along the sides of roads (as truckee public works and engineering departments have done) is not vegetation management and does not make sense from any fire-protection perspective.
For additional information:
Truckee Fire: https://www.truckeefire.org/defensible-space
Nevada Division of Forestry: www.forestry.nv.org
USDA Forest Service: www.fs.fed.us
USDA Forest Service: resilience
Fire Adapted Communities: https://bit.ly/3dSyfGF
Bureau of Land Management: www.nv.blm.gov
Sierra Front Wildfire Coop: http://www.sierra-front.net
WSU comprehensive list: https://bit.ly/3tW8xqB
Anchorage Wildfire Partnership: https://bit.ly/3dVrCnm
Search for Fire and Forestry in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan for additional information.
Truckee Fire Resistive Landscaping (2020)
Contrary to all research showing the tremendous benefits of urban forests, the town of Truckee public works and engineering departments are currently fulfilling their “long-term goal” of removing our street trees to make “snow-removal more convenient”. Under the pretense of “fire prevention”, the public works department and engineering departments are clear cutting “over 100 acres” of roadsides in our town with no respect to genuine vegetation management practices (they use a 10′ pvc pipe to decide which vegetation is “hazardous”). Town staff received ~$500K from Truckee Fire (who, in late 2019 received a ~$1.5 million grant from CalFire intended to be used for improved carbon sequestration… the remaining $1 million?). The town staff have misrepresented this as a fire protection project in order to avoid all erosion control mitigation (“>100 acres”) by Lahontan Water Quality Control Board and avoid California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements (to inform the public about potential environmental impacts and to reduce environmental impacts). It appears a deceptive misappropriation of state funds and it is wrong on so many levels. (roadside vegetation removal farce)
CAL FIRE California Climate Investments (CCI) Program
“Project Types and Activities – The three qualifying projects and activities include those related to hazardous fuel reduction and removal of dead, dying, or diseased trees, fire prevention planning, and fire prevention education.”
Truckee Fire Protection District Truckee Fuel Reduction – $1,500,000 grant
“The Truckee CWPP dictates working with multiple community subdivisions and organizations to diminish the vertical and horizontal continuity of fuels, thus diminishing fire behavior. This project will facilitate vegetation management on Town of Truckee right of ways and individual shaded fuel breaks that occur on approximately 8,000 acres of WUI with approximately 7,200 habitable structures in the Truckee Fire Protection District and the Town of Truckee. By decreasing fire intensity, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions will decrease. Vegetation treatments create increased growth in the remaining vegetation increasing carbon sequestration. This will create a net carbon benefit over time.”
…except that irrigated landscape aspen won’t burn…and… and this will create more heat island effect for drier and more flammable roadsides, more dangerously combustible cheatgrass, FAR less stored carbon (>100 acres of trees clear-cut), increased vehicle speeds and increased pedestrian and cyclist hazard, and more chance for undercarriage ignition in 18″ remaining vegetation. IF the town’s right-of-way clear-cutting had ANYTHING to do with fire, they would NOT be removing living, healthy, irrigated aspen groves. If they wanted to improve egress they would be working toward providing a center lane so we could have two lanes out and one lane for emergency vehicle access in ( but instead, town engineering told us they are “planning on installing more center islands” “to slow traffic” while also arguing that wider streets do not increase traffic speeds) . The snow-stakes, fire hydrants, street signs and utility poles are not being moved or removed. The vegetation removal has an insignificant impact on egress…etc…
(…in spite of questionable grand funds management, Measure T passed using an aggressive advertising campaign of religious fear-marketing. We NEED good work done and we sincerely hope this new and abundant funding flow will be used for fuels reduction IN our WUI and not consumed by “administration” costs. And we are still curious about the rest of the 2019 $1.5 million of the CalFire carbon sequestration grant, that that Truckee Fire already received.)