Rethinking the Mountain Cedar, a.k.a. Juniperus ashei
Soils in the Hill Country of Texas have been subjected to numerous severe disturbances over the last 150 years. If Mountain Cedars hadn't morphed from trees in forests and woodlands into pioneering thickets of bushy-cedars, our soils would be much more degraded today.
Copyright © 2021 Elizabeth McGreevy
Tips to make your home more fire safe:
Add steel mesh screens to your windows. Even if the heat cracks your glass, the mesh will keep flying embers out.
Replace wood privacy fencing within 15 feet of your home with non flammable materials such as corrugated metal, welded steel wire, or composite wood. Or simply paint the wood with nonflammable paints.
Replace your wood deck with composite or aluminum decking.
Do not use vinyl siding or windows if you live near a high risk fire area since these will melt.
Reducing fire risk should not include the excessive clearing of established vegetation, especially old-growth tree cover. Doing this dries out the soils and can dehydrate the remaining vegetation. This makes your home less fire safe.
Tips to managing vegetation:
In Texas, we only have to clear 30 feet from our homes if we live along a natural area (this is called the Urban-Wildland Interface).
Create a shaded fuel break ().
Focus on keeping your plants well hydrated by amending the soil throughout the year with organic composts, humates, and by not using toxic chemicals that can kill soil life.
If you live along a natural area, remove your foundation plantings. Such plantings can cause windows to crack and roof eaves to catch fire. Worst plants are yaupon, rosemary, and sumacs. Replace the plants with a gravel walkway (at least 6' wide) that follows the foundation. This creates a good buffer.
Thin out understory plants. Keep those that are less flammable such as the native American Beauty Berry. Create islands and/or bands of vegetation to maintain wildlife habitat.
How to Reduce Fire Risk
Reducing fire risk starts with making your home and community more fire safe. The primary goals should be to prevent flying embers from entering your home. The secondary goals should be to prevent ground fires within ten feet of your home's foundation and to reduce the impact of cracked window glass.