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Creating a fire-safer urban landscape

Environmental Stewardship Committee News, February 2021 by Devon Mann, SEN Board Vice Chair 

An unfortunate combination of land management practices and climate change have brought the risk of wildfire to our doorsteps. Much of the hills of the Southeast Eugene neighborhood are a wooded mix of Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and Oregon White Oak. As a resident, I have concerns about how to best create and maintain a fire-safer habitat on and around my property. 

I recently enlisted the help of Ian Appow of Eco System Solutions to assess the defensible space of my home. The defensible space is the buffer between your home and the surrounding vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses). For a nominal fee, Ian provides a defensible space evaluation of any property. 

Some of the important elements of my evaluation included:

  • Keep roofs clear of all debris (leaves, fallen twigs, branches, etc.). Many fires start from blowing embers igniting flammable materials on the roof of a home.
  • Removing trees from around your home does not necessarily make it fire safer. A canopy of healthy, well maintained trees keeps the ground damp and temperatures cooler helping to slow or stop the spread of fire. Do prune off branches lower than about 10 feet from the ground to keep fire from igniting the canopy.
  • Invasive weeds such as blackberry, gorse, and scotch broom need to be completely removed from the landscape or cut back to the ground regularly as these types of dense plant materials are excellent fire fuel sources.

If you are interested in a Defensible Space Evaluation of your property, please contact Ian Appow, Community Development Director at Eco System Solutions, 541.600.4416 or

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