Is this a fire hazard, and what would you do?

melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)May 1, 2013

We revamped the front, and all the tiny plants/small citrus in this shots are not established (like planted either this past weekend or a weekend ago). But it's all going to get blasted this summer, so we mulched the entire area with wood chips.

So then I asked DH "Is this a fire hazard?" And he said it was. So what can we do? I was going to do nothing, but then my hamster wheel started turning.

Option 1 -- fill in with full-sun annuals, kind of a pricey option.

Option 2 -- water 2x/week with a hose sprinkler so that the wood chips don't get too dry but also means a higher water bill when the whole point of this was a LOWER water bill.

What do you think, go for Option 2 or don't worry about it and hope for the best?! ;-)

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Wed, May 1, 13 at 20:42

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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

I wouldn't worry about it. If you are home and there is a fire nearby wet it down. Wood chips on the ground aren't going to generate any significant flame height.That plant on the right side of your picture looks to be more of a hazard than the wood chips. If it catches fire there would be some flames but it is far enough away from the house that the flames wouldn't touch the structure.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 9:15PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

drip watering is cheaper and wastes less. min

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:28PM
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It's absolutely ludicrous, ridiculous and absurd for anyone to say those wood chips are a fire hazard to your home. Yes they would burn but definately not a threat to your home for the reason Paul flame height.

If you have a fireplace or your neighbors do that is more of a threat. Is he going to remove your fireplace or their home?

Tell DH to watch fireman fighting fires. You don't see them putting out lawn grass fire much. They worry about the dry brush, tall trees etc.

Relax and enjoy your garden and a lower water bill.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:28AM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

LOL thanks all! I don't think my husband was trying to be critical at all. But having a bunch of dry wood strewn all over the front yard...well we had to wonder.

Yes I'm really excited at the new plants/wood chips. The yard was a mess before this, with my attempts at "naturalizing" perennials all over the area that had become dry, weedy, and overrun by pineapple mint. Oy.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:56AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

wood chip mulch actually doesn't catch fire that easily.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:53AM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

Good to know! I have never had so much wood chips with so few/tiny plants before, so ... :-)

Just for fun, here are the process pics; I shared this over in Landscape Design too, just to show what we did since I had asked a few questions etc. It's probably not going to look like professional quality work, but as long as looks decent and not messy, and is low water/maintenance, then we'll be happy:

Last year, before -- this was the culmination of my crazy 10 years of ADD planting and haphazard yardwork, interspersed with having kids and some medical issues that interfered:

And then a year of black plastic (with a couple tillings/levelings to get the ground nice and even with an appropriate grade):

Honestly it's so much nicer to go out there and not feel like there is chaos etc. Our front yard is on a corner so it's larger than other front yards on our street, and it has a slope toward the street.

I have some flowering trees/large shrubs/small shrubs/perennials all on the slope and down to the street. It's in much better shape than the area along the walk, but my husband isn't such a fan of it. He wants plain and simple.

I think what we have now is a compromise: plain and simple for him in the main/level part of the yard, and then mixed planting/interest on the sloping edges for me.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:55PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

What a transformation! It looks great. Be sure to supplement with nitrogen, since wood chips take nitrogen from the soil as they decompose.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 2:10PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

wood chip mulch takes very little nitrogen from the soil. You have to mix the wood chips into the soil for serious nitrogen fixation to occur.

Here is a link that might be useful: wood chip mulch info (PDF)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 2:45PM
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CA Kate

A bigger worry is fiery debris blowing onto your roof and into dirty gutters

One thing to watch out for with the wood chips: make sure that water is actually getting into the ground below the chips.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 6:34PM
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The chips soak up moisture and don't burn easily. Just the top most layer is dry enough.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:06PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The entire neighborhood had a fire analysis by the county. The firemen told me what they care about is stuff that gets tall, especially right against the house, especially by windows. Mulch is not an issue. Palms, Pines, Eucalyptus are bad because they produce embers that travel a considerable distance and start spot fires. Also any openings in your attic should be screened with 1/8" metal screen. This prevents embers from getting into the attic and catching fire. They saw several instances of this in the Anaheim Hills fire of a few years ago, 2008 i think it was. Palm tree embers getting blown into nearby houses and catching them on fire.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 1:40PM
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CA Kate

As I mentioned before: debris in gutters can catch on fire then catch the wooden trim behind the gutter on fire. So, it is important to clean the gutters before fire season.

Also, as hoovB mentioned, certain plants easily catch fire and should never be planted near the house.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 2:33PM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

Thank you so much for all the info about what would actually be considered a fire hazard!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 3:45PM
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