Last night we needed to be evacuated from our home due to bushfire threat. A fire had jumped containment lines and was heading our way. Fortunately the wind changed direction and although we will still be at risk for a while yet, the immediate danger has passed and we will return home today.
Living in a fire prone area means you need to “design for disaster”. First, identify your “fire sector” (the direction bushfire is most likely to approach). Here in the Sydney area the hot, drying winds blow from the westerly and northerly quarters and these directions hold the greatest risk. Add to this the modifying factors of topography – valleys will tend to funnel the wind, steep cliff faces will increase turbulent behaviour, and uphill slopes will speed up the approach of a fire front. Look also at surrounding vegetation, obviously native bushland and reserves will increase fire risk while houses and lakes will offer protection.
After you have identified your fire sector you will need to plant accordingly. In the direction of potential fire attack and around the house you will want fire resistant and fire retardant plants. Deciduous trees will have dropped all their leaves in Autumn and come summer have flushes of fresh growth and offer better protection than evergreens. Opt for ground cover plants rather than woodchip mulch to protect your soil. All plants should be types that have larger leaves with a lot of moisture content rather than small leaved varieties. Also think of the bark texture, smooth bark is a better option than stringy-barked or paper-barked trees or trees that shed their bark heavily. Succulents and fleshy leaved plants are the ultimate fire protection.
If you are unsure how fire resistant a particular plant is then test it – cut off a branch and try to burn it. If it bursts into flames you won’t want it in your fire sector or around the house!
Also consider other elements that might be good to place in your fire sector and would offer protection such as ponds, water tanks, dams, swimming pools, buildings, boulders, etc.
Now run outside and create your oasis!