OAKLAND (KCBS) - In some cases, which home survived the wine country fires and which didn't depended on what was growing around the house. KCBS reporter Doug Sovern says survivors of the Oakland Hills Firestorm 26 years ago are sharing the lessons they learned about fire safe landscaping.
You won't find any shredded bark or wood chips anywhere near Sue Piper's home in Hiller Highlands. Twenty-six years ago, her house was one of the more than 3,000 destroyed by the Oakland Hills Firestorm. Now she knows better than to use flammable mulch or plants shrubs and trees that can spread fire.
"What you want to avoid are things like rosemary or common juniper or California sage brush." Piper says. Avoid Douglas Fir, Monterey Pine and eucalyptus as they all have "high oil content," according to Piper.
Piper suggests to place gravel or stone right around your house, five feet of nothing flammable, 30' feet of defensible space with no overhanging branches.
"And you want to remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from the ground and under your deck. So if you're storing your firewood under your deck, that's not a place to store it." Piper explains.
Piper says you should plant things like succulents, winter Jasmine, ground cover that's less likely to burn. That doesn't mean you can't grow rosemary in your herb garden. Just don't let it turn dry and woody. "You can't just plant and forget. You have to maintain it," Piper advises. "Ongoing maintenance what's really important."
Piper and a crew of volunteers maintain the Gateway Emergency Preparedness Center. A demonstration garden along Tunnel Road and Highway 24 where the do's and don'ts of what to plant and what not to plant, how to get ready for earthquakes and the next wildfires are on display.
"We're only as strong as our weakest link in the neighborhood. And we know not only to our family and our property but our neighbors family property to keep that defensible space up."
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