The FireSmart Plant Program Continues to Grow

When it comes to protecting your property from wildfire, what you plant and where you plant matters more than you might think. While there are no fireproof plants, there are FireSmart options that are safer and more fire resilient. To help you make informed decisions when purchasing plants, we created the FireSmart Plant Program

This program provides gardeners, landscapers, and suppliers with the knowledge they need to reduce wildfire risk by highlighting fire-resistant plants with specialized product tags. If you see a tag that says “This is a FireSmart plant!”, you’ve found an option that doesn’t increase fire intensity or provide significant fuel. Since the program started in the spring of 2021, we’ve had over 50 garden centres and nurseries sign up throughout BC. We’ve also created helpful resources like the Plant Chart and the Landscaping Tips Brochure, making it easier than ever to create FireSmart landscapes. 

Whether you’re an avid gardener or someone who’s just looking to get started, you can help the FireSmart Plant Program spread its roots throughout BC. Simply get in touch with your local garden centre or nursery, inform them about the program, and encourage them to get involved. After all, there are a bunch of benefits to becoming a Plant Partner. To start, partners receive recognition as a fire-resistant plant supplier and earn promotion through social media and media events. They also receive staff training and point-of-purchase support through plant tags, signage, and landscaping guides. Most importantly, their participation means they’re playing an active role in building community wildfire resiliency by promoting fire-resistant plants.

So What Exactly Does a Fire-Resistant Plant Look Like?

We’re glad you asked! As you can see through our Fire-Resistant Plant Tool, these resilient options come in many different shapes and sizes. From trees and shrubs to perennials and annuals, there’s a wide variety to choose from. When selecting fire-resistant plants, it’s less about their appearance and more about their qualities. These plants don’t provide significant fuel or increase fire intensity because they feature:

  • Moist and supple leaves that ignite and burn slower.
  • Little dead wood or accumulated dead material.
  • Open branching habits that allow more debris to fall to the ground, enabling easier removal of fuel.
  • Fewer total branches and leaves (less fuel).
  • Slow-growing habits, reducing pruning requirements.
  • Water-like sap with little or no odour.
  • A low amount of sap or resin material.

On the other end of the resilience range, we have highly flammable plants. While it’s true that all plants burn, these varieties provide more fuel and can increase fire intensity, making them a hazardous choice. Highly flammable plants feature:

  • Fine, dry, and dead materials such as twigs, needles, and leaves.
  • Loose and papery bark.
  • Stems, branches, or leaves that contain volatile waxes, terpenes, or oils.
  • Aromatic leaves that produce a strong odour when crushed.
  • Gummy, resinous sap with a strong odour.

In addition to making FireSmart plant selections, you’ll also need to consider your Plant Cold Hardiness Zone. Hardiness refers to a plant’s tolerance of low temperatures, which means that certain varieties will be a better fit for your area than others. As a general rule, you’ll want to select FireSmart options that naturally grow where you live. By making the right selections, you can create landscapes that are every bit as beautiful as they are resilient. If you’re ever stuck or don’t know where to begin, ask an expert for advice! We’re here to support you on your FireSmart landscaping journey. 

FireSmart Landscaping Turns Risk into Resilience

Fire-resilient plants are just one part of a FireSmart landscape. By making strategic choices for your yard, you can transform typical hazards into fire-resilient works of art. Those juniper hedges? Replace them with lilacs or mock orange. That bark mulch? Remove it and use crushed rock or gravel instead. Sure, these actions take time. But when they can potentially be the difference that saves your home from wildfire, they’re well worth it. 

The good news? It’s not just larger tasks like this that make a difference. It’s the little things too. Keeping your lawn cut below 10 centimetres, raking up those dead leaves, cleaning your gutters, pruning low-hanging tree branches, and moving firewood at least 10 metres away from your home are all examples of everyday chores that can substantially improve fire resilience.

What Else Can You Do to Create a FireSmart Property?

If you’re just getting acquainted with FireSmart landscaping or want to pick up where you left off, it helps to reference the right resources. That’s why we created a collection of guides, infographics, and more to help guide your efforts. Take our Landscaping Guide for example. This handy resource can serve as your primer for protecting your property by giving you a list of fire-resistant plants, information on landscaping best practices, insights on mulch, and advice on hedges. We’ve also completely overhauled our Landscaping Hub, giving you a convenient online resource that’s easy to navigate and reference as needed.

In addition to learning from these resources, it’s important to:

  • Know what trees are on your property. Did you know that coniferous trees such as spruce, pine, fir, and cedar are highly flammable? This is especially true when compared to deciduous trees like poplar, maple, and alder. Review your property and see if you have any of these trees within 10 metres of your home. If you do, consider having them removed.
  • Understand the Home Ignition Zone. The Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) is the area within 30 metres of your home that consists of three priority areas: The Immediate Zone, Intermediate Zone, and Extended Zone. It’s a good idea to become familiar with these zones and the tasks associated with each of them. Be sure to work with your neighbours in any overlapping zones. 
  • Keep your plants healthy. Unhealthy or dead plants present a greater fire risk, even if they’re FireSmart. Keep your plants healthy and resilient by watering them properly (in accordance with relevant water restrictions), pruning as required, and fertilizing at the right time. 

The FireSmart Plant Program continues to grow and take root in communities thanks to the collective efforts of gardeners, landscapers, and suppliers across the province. By continuing to choose fire-resistant plants and adopt FireSmart landscaping practices, we’re safeguarding our properties while contributing to community wildfire resilience. Let’s continue to sow the seeds of resilience across British Columbia, one property at a time.

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