Fire safety

Dear Editor:

The November issue of Colorado Country Life magazine (which all La Plata Electric customers receive) had an interesting gardening article about the benefits of junipers as landscaping plants in our climate.

While junipers are beautiful and drought tolerant, I noticed one glaring omission in this article: Junipers are highly flammable and are not recommended for use near the home.

Whether they are the common tree-like junipers that are native to this area or the ornamental low-lying landscaping varieties, either type poses a significant threat to the home in the event of a wildfire.

The Colorado State Forest Service recommends that, ideally, there are no trees within 15 to 30 feet of the home and definitely no flammable ground cover within the first five feet. Most homes lost to wildfires never come in direct contact with the flame front, it is rather the flying embers ahead of the fire which find something combustible on or near the structure to ignite. Quite often, junipers used under windows and in front of crawl space vents (two of the most vulnerable places on the exterior of the home) have caused the loss of structures to approaching wildfire.

After the devastating losses to wildfire in the Front Range of Colorado last spring and summer, some of the smaller home insurance companies have withdrawn from the state. The ones remaining are adopting much more stringent standards for fire mitigation around the home. The industry popular standards of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety suggest a five foot zone around the structure to be free of woody, combustible plants or conifer trees. This could likely become a requirement for new and renewal policies in wildfire prone areas like ours.

For your own safety, please don’t plant junipers close to your home.

Bill Trimarco

Archuleta County coordinator

FireWise of Southwest Colorado

This story was posted on December 6, 2012.