Can you bushfire proof your home with smart landscaping?

Part 1

Photo source: Pinterest (Teresa Meyer)

Photo source: Pinterest (Teresa Meyer)

The correct answer here is NO... But you can go a long way to reducing the risk of a bushfire destroying your home by knowing some of the ins and outs of what drives a bushfire.  By planning the layout of the home and surrounding garden, adopting some smart planting ideas, and with regular maintenance and management you can dramatically reduce your chances of losing your home to a bushfire.

Planning ahead is essential for surviving any bushfire season and the most effective way to do this is to reduce the location and arrangement of fuel around your home.  

All plants will burn, given enough heat, but measures can be taken to reduce the intensity by carefully selecting the correct garden plants.

Landscaping for bushfire means the planning, designing, planting and management of the areas around the house.  The aim is to keep the areas closest to the house and other structures of the property free of plants and trees that easily ignite.

Over the next few weeks I will look at each of these areas, a bit more in depth, with a 6 part series, to help you stay safe in summer.


Photo source: Pinterest (

Photo source: Pinterest (

But firstly, we need to look at how fire behaves.

There are 3 main factors that effect how a bushfire behaves, topography (slope), weather, and vegetation (fuel).

Topography - fire races uphill.  As the slope increases, the faster the fire races.  

Weather - hot, dry, windy conditions dry out vegetation and provide ideal conditions for a naked flame to take hold.

Vegetation - plants are the primary source of fuel for a bushfire. 

The amount of fuel available to a bushfire and where the fuel is located can directly impact on house survival. 

Fuels such as fine leaf litter easily dry out, ignite and can be carried as embers. Shrubs, vines and other elevated fuel can act as ladder fuels, allowing fire to climb into the canopies of trees, significantly increasing bushfire intensity. 

(source: CFAVIC Landscaping for Bushfires, 2011)

Photo source: Pinterest - KateHamilton-Hunter 

Photo source: Pinterest - KateHamilton-Hunter 

Breaking up the continuity of the vegetation, with irrigated lawn, hardscaping, pools and other water elements, can limit the spread of fire within the garden.

Remember there are no ‘fire proof’ plants. All plants can burn under the right conditions – typically in extreme fire weather following extended drought.

Photo source: Project Artichoke - Kerri Fennell

Photo source: Project Artichoke - Kerri Fennell

House survival is influenced by many interacting  factors. The four main ways houses are destroyed during a bushfire are:

Ember attack - ember attack is the most common way houses catch fire during a bushfire. Ember attack occurs when small burning twigs, leaves and bark are carried by the wind, landing in and around houses and their gardens. 

Radiant heat - Is the heat created from combustion during a bushfire. It can ignite surfaces without direct flame contact or  ember attack.  It dries out the vegetation ahead of the bushfire so  that it burns more readily.  Can crack and break windows, allowing embers to enter a building, and distort and melt materials such as plastic. 

Direct flame contact - occurs when flames touch an object.  Any burning vegetation can directly ignite a house if it is planted in the wrong location.

Wind - can be very destructive to houses in a bushfire because it carries embers,  causes trees to fall onto buildings, breaks windows, loosens roof tiles and can even blow roofs off houses under severe conditions.

(source: CFAVIC Landscaping for Bushfires, 2011)

In my next instalment of this six part series we will look at ways of reducing these risks to your home, with better planning, especially if we can get involved in the early stages of the home design.

Sign up to receive the series, that will inform you how to plan for bushfire, design the garden and the best plants for bushfire prevention and management ......