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Create defensible space around homes

Defensible space breaks up the continuity of vegetation that can bring fire to a structure, provides room for firefighters to fight a fire. It also helps keep a structure fire from spreading to woodlands. It should extend 30 to 200 feet if your home borders heavy wildland fuels.

It doesn’t need to be devoid of shrubs and trees, but should be wisely landscaped with plants known to be less flammable separated by walkways and grassed areas.


Thin trees so that the crowns (treetops) are 10 to 15 feet apart.

Remove “ladder fuels,” vines and shrubs that can carry a ground fire up into the treetops.

Remove dense fuels, trim overhanging branches, and carefully plan your landscaping within 30 feet of homes.

Prune tree limbs so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.

Remove large groupings of plants like saw palmetto, yaupon, wax myrtle and gallberry, especially if the plants are close to the home, decks or porches or under eaves or overhangs.

Instead of flammable mulch like bark or wood chips, use lava stone or coarse gravel around any shrubbery that is within 5 feet of the structure.

Allow no flammable vegetation in contact with the structure.

Remove highly flammable plants with resinous sap and waxy leaves like saw palmetto, wax myrtle, yaupon, red cedar, cypress and young pine trees.

Move firewood and propane gas tanks at least 50 feet from the structure.

Keep 100 feet of hose readily available at a faucet away from the structure.

Select less-flammable plant species to plant within the zone of defensible space.

Less-flammable landscape

Trees: Ash, Citrus, Crape Myrtle, Dogwood, Jacaranda, Loquat, Oaks, Peach, Black Cherry, Sparkleberry, Hophornbeam, Pecan, Willow, Basswood, Magnolia, Maple, Redbud, Sycamore, Viburnum, Winged Elm, Plum, Sweet Gum, Persimmon, Blue Beach, Sea Grape, Catalpa, Sweet Acacia, Silver Button, Tabebuia, Gumbo Limbo, Red Bay, Green Button, Mahogany, Satin Leaf, Pigeon Plum, River Birch, Hawthorne, Elm

Palms: Pindo Palm, Queen, Alexander, Pygmy Date, Sago, King Sago.

Shrubs: Agave, Aloe, Azalea, Viburnum, Hydrangea, Oleander, Philodendron, Pittosporum, Red Yucca, Beauty Berry, Pyracantha, Camellia, Century Plant, Coontie, Anise, Indian Hawthorne, Oakleaf Hydrangea.

More-Flammable Trees and Shrubs

Pines, Italian Cypress, Arbovitae, Pampas Grass, American Holly, Yaupon Holly, Juniper, Bald Cypress, Saw Palmetto, Gallberry, Boxwood, Yew, Red Cedar, Arizona Cypress, Wax Myrtle, Cabbage Palm, Melaleuca, Leyland Cypress.

Source: Florida Forest Service,

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