Certain landscaping materials increase fire risk, experts warn

With forest fires causing massive residential damage in recent years, fire safety professionals are urging people to think twice about surrounding their homes with highly flammable materials.

Wood chips, certain trees can make your home more susceptible to fires, Fire Smart Canada president says

Wood chips may look nice in a bed just outside your home, but they increase the fire risk, says Laura Stewart of Fire Smart Canada. (The Associated Press)

Fire safety experts are urging Canadians to think twice about using highly flammable landscaping materials near their homes. 

Laura Stewart, president of Fire Smart Canada, said people out cleaning up the yard this spring might want to reconsider their outdoor decor.

"The issue that we see is that in the spring, after we've had a long, cold, dry winter, the snow has essentially killed all the grass," Stewart told CBC's Radio Active.

"It's really going to carry fire quite quickly."

Though it's tough to manage the dead, dry grass at the start of spring, Stewart said some other landscaping materials — such as wood chips or certain types of trees and shrubs — should be moved away from homes.

She said cedar chips, a popular outdoor esthetic choice, are great fuel for fires. Spruce, pine, juniper and cedar trees are also fire hazards for homes.

"They're highly flammable and vulnerable to ember ignition, so we don't want to see those surrounding the homes at all," Stewart said.

To decrease fire risk, she suggests a 1.5-metre neutral zone between your home and any flammable materials. Stones or soil are great buffers between the other materials and the home.

Maple, aspen and poplar trees are some less-flammable alternatives, she said.

Home-ignition zones

Stewart said despite all the precautionary measures that can be taken at ground level, the roof of a home is often the most vulnerable.

"It's not a place that we often think to clean," she said. "It's good to just take a moment in the spring and build that into your spring maintenance routine."