September 21, 2012 | Back to: News

Juggling fire and dirt

TAHOE, Calif. — Have you ever felt confused about how to incorporate fire defensible space and Best Management Practices (BMPs) for erosion control into your backyard? Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, Inc. in collaboration with Tahoe Resource Conservation District, Meeks Bay Fire Protection District, North Tahoe Fire District, and Homewood Mountain Resort recently completed a three-year study to find common ground between landscape treatments that are effective at preventing soil erosion and minimizing the risk of fire.

Integrated Environmental’s study tested different materials and practices, like pine needles, aged duff (a thick mat of decaying organic matter), woodchips, composted woodchips, landscape bark (purchased in stores), and duff and wood chips tilled into the soil, for erosion and fire risk.

To find out which treatments prevented run-off, the different materials were exposed to a simulated rainstorm. To test for fire risk, materials were lit on fire using a drip torch (administered by local firefighters) and measured for flame height, rate of flame spread and burn temperature of the different materials.

Of all the treatments tested, the study found that tilling aged woodchips into the soil was the most effective at minimizing fire risk and preventing erosion. Mixing 1 to 3 inches of wood chips into your soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches promotes water infiltration. Kevin Drake, senior planner at Integrated Environmental, explains is as “mixing organic material, like wood chips, into the soil helps turn your soil back into a sponge. Instead of water running off your property, the loosened soil actually absorbs water.”

“I am glad we were able to test the flammability of the mulch tilled in here in Tahoe. While we couldn’t get the best test due to Mother Nature, it still gave us some insight about possibilities to solve both fire danger and soil erosion issues,” said John B. Pang, chief of the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District.

No organic mulch is entirely fire resistant, which means planter beds with tilled in woodchips should be used along with rock, patios, or grass in a patchwork manner throughout your landscape. It is also important to create a non-combustible zone in the 5 feet directly around your home by applying gravel, rocks, or low growing non-woody plants like clover or native grass.

To learn more about Tahoe friendly landscape treatments and Integrated Environmental’s study, check out the Common Ground brochure at www.ierstahoe.com or www.tahoercd.org.

Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, Inc.

Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, Inc. is a recognized leader in the development, testing, implementing and monitoring of cutting-edge, soil based restoration projects throughout the Sierra Nevada. The Defensible Space and Erosion Control Study was funded through Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA) Round 10 to help determine the most effective landscape treatments for minimizing the risk of fire and soil erosion. For more information on Integrated Environmental or the study, contact Shelly Thomsen at 530-581-4377 or visit www.ierstahoe.com.

Special to the Sun


Explore Related Articles

Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 21, 2012 12:48PM Published Sep 21, 2012 12:38PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.