Fire Safe News Fire-Wise Landscaping

What to do if a neighbor doesn’t trim trees or brush that may be a fire hazard

1. Understand when brush is a potential fire hazard

Check out the “City of San Diego Guide to Fire Safety and Brush Management for Private Property”. It is very specific about a homeowner’s responsibilities for keeping their property free of fire hazards. There are also other resources available on the resource page of our website.

2. Share information

Obviously the first step is to try to talk to you neighbor about the potential danger.  If you think it will help, we can supply you with a hard copy of the guide mentioned above for your neighbor. 

3. Offer to help

Sometimes neighbors will offer to help trim or share the cost of trimming as just the price of also making their own house safer. 

4. Last resort: report

If nothing else works, take a picture, and report the situation on San Diego’s Get It Done site, and/or call the San Diego Fire Hazard Advisor at 619-533-4444.  Complaints are private and not shared or discussed with either party. 

They can send out an inspector, although there may be a wait because there’s a limited number of inspectors serving the whole city.  If they find brush management violations, they will advise the homeowner on corrective action needed and give them time to correct the problems.  If the owner does not correct the violations within the specified time period, the city can issue a citation with fines, and potentially “forced abatement” costing hundreds of dollars.  More info:

If electrical wires are involved, contact SDGE at 1-800-411-7343.  If possible, get the “pole number” which is stamped on a silver marker on each pole. This will give them a precise location.  They have professional arborists who can assess the situation and decide if the tree or tree limbs pose a hazard.  If necessary, they will then arrange for pruning or, if a tree needs to be removed, they can recommend replacement options that won’t interfere with wires as they grow.  They even have a tree replacement program. More info at:

Fire hazards put us all at risk, not just a single homeowner.  By taking action, you are being a responsible citizen and trying to make us all safer.  

On behalf of everyone in our community, thank you for your efforts!

Community Presentations Fire Safe News Fire-Wise Landscaping

CANYONLANDS: Brush Management Guide and Video Presentation

San Diego Canyonlands: Brush Management Training for Canyon Communities

Click here to download San Diego Canyonland’s “Brush Management + Native Landscaping Resources.”

Community Presentations Fire Safe News Fire-Wise Landscaping

Master Gardener Cindy Bruecks on Fire Safe Landscaping

Click here to see the video of the Zoom Session.

Click here to download the handout Cindy references in her talk.

FireWise gardening tips from Cindy Brucks

Kensington Fire Safe Zoom presentation, 11/17/2021

FireWise Gardening Zoom was sponsored by Kensington Fire Safe, KenTal Community Association, KenTal Gardening Club, and Trees KenTal.

Fire-Wise Landscaping

Landscaping Your Home in a Fire Area

Click here to read an article about fire safe landscaping by Las Pilitas Nursery.

Fire Safe News Fire-Wise Landscaping

Reminder to Keep Your Fan Palms Trimmed

Sure, your fan palm is beautiful with its layers of drying fronds draping down the trunk. But those dried fronds ignite easily in a wildfire and spread flying embers throughout the neighborhood. Let the unprecedented fires raging through our state right now serve as a reminder to keep your fan palms trimmed up and protected from fire. You might just save your house, or your neighbor’s.

Fire-Wise Landscaping

Mulch, Flames and Gorillas?

Flying flames apparently take a likin’ to some mulches a lot more than others. For those that are interested, a 2007 study(1) on ignition rates and flame heights came to these love affair conclusions and some recommended physical separation from flammable structures:

  1. Love at first landing: Straw and pine needles caught fire the fastest – less than five seconds. Keep at least 15 feet away.
  2. Totally infatuated: Wood chips and bark nuggets had few fire-proofing characteristics; 15–30 feet separation.          
  3. Can be dangerously flirtatious – keep several feet away.     
    1. Green, closely-mowed sod can provide excellent fire-proofing.  However, when grown more than four inches or dry, it becomes as flammable as pine needles and wheat straw. 
    1. Dense, finely ground/screened materials such as garden compost and shredded bark had strong fire-proofing characteristics, however, with enough time could possibly cause other materials to ignite.
  4. But, flames can’t stand inorganic mulches! Decomposed granite, gravel and rocks are the motherlode for superior fire-proofing, especially for cozying up to flammable structures.  Only concern is  regularly removing flammable, windblown debris.

Since this was an Arizona study, we asked local landscaping expert Greg Rubin (2) for his opinion.  Here’s what he said: 

“These results seem very consistent with our experience and measurements.  Except that when the mulch is consolidated with overhead watering (within months) or naturally (years), the flame height drops to around ~2″ (consolidation limits oxygenation). A local fire marshall ran ignition tests on our gorilla hair and came back asking, ‘What kind of fire retardant are you putting in this stuff?’.  Of course, we can never guarantee a yard or home won’t burn in a firestorm, but at least these results so far have been pretty good.”

We’d never heard of gorilla hair – maybe you all are familiar with it. For those who aren’t, it’s finely-shredded redwood and western cedar tree bark, that looks remarkably like the backs of Jane Goodall’s best friends.(3) 

Let’s hope none of us ever have to deal with any romance between flying flames and our mulch!

  1. Check out the full study here:                
  2. Mr. Rubin, the 2018 San Diego Horticulturist of the Year, recently completed a five-year Navy research project on fire-resistant native landscapes. He has published two popular books on California native landscaping and his company has installed over 700+ landscapes.