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Fire-Hazardous Plants

CA Native Fire Prone PlantsIdentifying Fire-Hazardous Plants

This is a partial list of fire-hazardous plants, common to Marin. These plants typically share characteristics that may make them ignite readily and burn intensely.  Firefighters have observed these plants igniting and burning during recent wildfires in northern California and Marin. For this reason, these plants are usually poor choices for landscaping use in a home's Defensible Space zones, or close to roads and driveways in Marin's Wildland Urban Interface.

leaf nativeCalifornia Natives
Note that this list contains some plants native to Marin and/or California.  Native plants often provide value to the landscape and health of an ecosystem, even while many share characteristics that may create a hazard during wildfires.  Even natives on this list may be able to be maintained in a state that makes them relatively ignition resistant - reducing their hazard - by keeping them free of dead material and irrigating properly for their exposure and soil conditions.  Consult a fire professional if you are unsure about the potential hazard.

The Fire Code
Your fire department may require removal of certain plants within 30' -100'+ of structures.  While the fire department may refer to this list, the ultimate determination of hazard is up to the fire-code official and may take into account other site conditions or plant characteristics beyond the species of plant. The presence of a certain species on this list does not ALWAYS mean it must be removed - FIRESafe MARIN's list is not a substitute for the eyes and experience of a professional.  A plant list does not take into consideration each individual site's conditions, slope, aspect, moisture, or soils, which can all influence a plant's response to fire.

All plants can burn if dead, poorly maintained, or drought stressed
The plants listed here are representative of common species that typically share one or more of these characteristics: they may be biologically prone to burn due to chemical composition (often containing volatile oils); are difficult to maintain in a fire-resistant state (they accumulate dead woody material, dead leaves, or other hazardous dead growth); they may have a physical structure that presents challenges to routine maintenance (some thorny or dense shrubs that accumulate dead material in locations where it is difficult to remove); they may have a high surface area to volume ratio (such as fine needles or lacey leaves); they may be prone to rapid changes in moisture content in response to environmental conditions (they may be adequately hydrated one day, but lose moisture within hours when exposed to hot, dry weather).

This list is not comprehensive and is intended to identify species most common in Marin.  Learn more about fire-hazardous plants.


Preferred (Fire-Smart) Plants

Fire Safe Fire Smart PlantsChoosing Landscaping Plants in a Fire Prone Environment

  • Use this list as a reference for preferred plants suitable for Marin's climate and soils.
  • These plants tend to share characteristics of plants that are preferred in a fire-prone environment.
  • There are no “fire-proof” plants!  All plants must be maintained in good health, properly irrigated, and free of dead material, dry twigs, or fallen leaves and needles.
  • Maintenance is the most important factor when maintaining landscaping plants in a fire-prone environment.
  • Choose natives and/or pollinator friendly plants where appropriate.
  • Choose hedge plants that share these chartacteristics for screening.
  • Plant hardwood trees from this list that are less likely to ignite than conifers like pine or cypress.
  • Be aware of the potential for leaf and needle litter in the fall.
  • Use proper spacing between plants to slow the spread of fire.  More space is required on slopes.


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Annual Firewise USA Renewal Process

The deadline for submitting your Firewise renewal application is November 20, 2020.

Go to Firewise USA portal and Login.

As the Firewise Leader you can log into the Firewise USA portal. If you encounter a “redirect” to another NFPA web page, remove other NFPA cookies from your computer’s system, then try again.

You have to be a “resident leader” to be able to login...if you have changed leaders, please get the “retired” leader to login and give the leadership over, so the new leader can access the portal.

Please note: In the upper right-hand corner of your portal, you will see the “Annual Renewal Page” that has Firewise USA’s renewal instructions—you may find them helpful.

If your very first Certificate of Recognition was awarded in 2020:

Renewal is not needed until next year. Also, notice your application now consist of NINE (9) steps rather than the eight steps of previous years. The addition is “Step 2 of 9” which simply requests you to review the new requirements imposed by Cal Fire. That consists of a new Risk Assessment form to be used in the future.

There is a checkbox for “I have reviewed my state’s requirements.” If you cannot click in the box, ignore it and mouse click on the “CONTINUE” button.

If your very first Certificate of Recognition was awarded before 2020:

Your renewal application will still consist of nine (9) steps, only the addition is “Step 1 of 9” that asks you to update your site contact information. This consists of your Firewise Site’s official physical address and P.O. Box if that’s where you receive your mail.

The remaining renewal steps for 2020 are the same for all Firewise Sites.

Step 2 of 9: Overview

Update information if needed.

Step 3 of 9: Risk Assessment

You DO NOT need to update your Risk Assessment this year. It is worthy to note that the Marin County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), which can be considered the “Risk Assessment” for all of Marin, has to be renewed every five years as well. The CWPP will be renewed in 2021 and it will have significant changes due to the Marin Wildfire Protection Agency (MWPA) and advances in technology.

Step 4 of 9: Board/Committee

Please make sure the Firewise Leader for your site is correct, as are the names and contact information for your committee.

Step 5 of 9: Action Plan

You DO NOT need to update your Action Plan this year. However, like the Risk Assessment, it is best to review your action plan annually to see if it is a reasonable document even if it is not due.  For example, Covid-19 made in-person seminars impossible, so education was moved to on-line webinars.  Also, door-to-door visits, block parties, and other meet and greets may have turned into Zoom events or information may have been delivered as door hangers. 

Step 6 of 9: Educational Outreach

Check the appropriate box(es) to indicate your 2020 educational activities. If your Firewise site has “advertised” FIRESafe MARIN’s monthly webinars (https://firesafemarin.org/living-with-fire) this can count as “Wildfire workshop for residents with speakers/demonstrations from a forestry agency, fire department, or emergency management office.”  You may have done this by including our webinar links and/or our webinar page on your website, in your monthly newsletters, through your block captains, or in an email blast to your residents.

Step 7 of 9:  Vegetation Removal

Follow the directions on your portal to record your Vegetation Removal in 2020.

You will note you can record events such as goat grazing and chipper program in the “comments” section. 


Put total cubic yards removed during the chipper event in the box marked "cubic yards."

Click "vegetation removed"

Scroll down to the comments box and state:  "X number of yards of vegetation was removed during our Firewise site chipper event"  You can also add jot data (if you have it) and goat data here:  "...and X cubic yards was removed as reported by our Firewise residents and we had x number of goats grazing for x number of days in the open space abutting our Firewise site."

You will note that there is NO required amount of vegetation to be removed.  So please do not stress out on this point.  It is enough to say that you had goats browsing on X number of acres over X number of days rather than calculating how much grass they processed.

If you would like to have a form to send to your residents to fill out the number of hours and dollars they spent on home and property fire hardening...please feel free to use our JotForm:

We feel that the value in this form is to connect to your residents, it’s an opportunity to connect residents to the fire hardening process, to increase the connection and the relationship of Firewise to every home and the community.

In the future you may just want to use a spreadsheet that you can record removal events and amounts.

Step 8 of 9: Risk Reduction Investment

During this step, you will have the opportunity to record your financial and volunteer hour investment that you spent during this calendar year. 

A list of time and expense examples is embedded in the portal for this step. 

Be sure to record your VOLUNTEER HOURS:

You will be able to “Record Hours Spent” Remember, volunteer hours you spend meeting as a committee, hosting an educational event, coordinating a chipper program, meeting with fire department personnel all count. Here you can also record the hours you and your residents spend landscaping, doing DYI home hardening, and working in common community space or open space.

You will also be able to “Record Money Spent.” They have separate categories for chipper costs, equipment purchased/repaired, contractor fees, home improvement materials, and landscaping labor/materials.

Or, you can send your residents the JotForm to fill out the number of hours and dollars they spent on home and property fire hardening:



Click "record money spent"

You will see that there is a line for "chipper equipment cost," this obviously, is where you put the cost of the chipper program for your Firewise site.

You'll notice you can record other landscaping costs there as well as home-hardening.

Again, we feel that the value in this form is to connect your residents to the fire hardening process; it’s an opportunity to increase the connection and the relationship of Firewise to every home and to the community.

Step 9 of 9: Review

This is your chance to make sure all that you recorded is correct.  You will be able to go back and make changes before you submit your work!

FIRESafe MARIN   |   P.O. Box 2831  |   San Anselmo, CA 94979   |   info@firesafemarin.org

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