Trial by Fire

These landscaping tips will keep your home safe long before the first signs of wildfire.

By Debra Lee Baldwin

Photography by Liz Cockrum


Use these great tips to learn how to protect your home from a wildfire.Raising Awareness

Using the lessons learned in her own garden, Peggy now focuses on helping to refurbish the 10-year-old Elfin Forest Fire Safe Garden, located on a third of an acre adjacent to the community's fire station. Built with many volunteer hours from Elfin Forest neighbors, the award-winning garden showcases plants that are slow to transmit flames and illustrates how the landscape surrounding a structure can be colorful yet minimize wildfire risk.

Visitors to the garden have an opportunity to observe real-life examples of key fire-wise gardening principles, including how far to space trees from structures, ways to create attractive fuel breaks, and fire-resistant planting combinations that work well in average suburban yards.

Besides giving time to the demonstration garden, Peggy participates in the Elfin Forest garden tour, which allows the public to see examples of private fire-wise gardens so they can learn how to protect their homes from the threat of wildfire.

While many of the properties in Elfin Forest are now landscaped with fire safety in mind, Peggy stresses that fire-wise planning and preparation comes down to people. As the head of the community's block captains, her job is to mobilize neighbors when fire threatens.

"The fire department calls me, I phone my block captains, and they contact the residents. Everyone in Elfin Forest can be alerted in 20 minutes," she says. "I also ask people to clear roadways so firemen can get in and the rest of us can get out. Whatever you do affects your neighbors. If everyone in the community acts responsibly, then the community is safe."

Check out our favorite fire-resistant plants, and learn more about to create your very own fire-wise landscape.