rent members of the Oakmont ….
rent members of the Oakmont Community Development Committee, and in the past, we have variously been OVA board members, officers, committee chairs, and volunteers for OVA in various ways. Two of us are retired attorneys. We strongly urge the board to reconsider this amendment and drop the offending language. We can then join you in supporting this amendment and work with you to get it passed.
Respectfully, Wally Schilpp, Herm Herman, Hugh Helm, Joe Henderson Oakmont
Does juniper removal lack scientific credibility?
Dear Editor, The recent recommendation to residents from the Oakmont Board of Directors to remove all junipers from community homes was quickly updated to a mandatory policy. The question is, was this policy based on hard objective science? How rigorous was the recommending committee’s research? Is this plant species more flammable than other common plants such as rosemary? Does this policy lead homeowners into believing removal of one species is a panacea for fire hardening their homes?
We must learn to live with potential wildfires, and we must learn to take responsibility for how we manage and maintain our homes and landscapes. However, what we do should not be based upon opinion or personal belief or anecdote. It must be founded on scientific research.
A publication from the Farm and Home Advisor’s Office, University of California Cooperative Extension County of San Diego entitled Research Literature Review of Plant Flammability Testing, Fire-Resistant Plant Lists and Relevance of a Plant Flammability Key for Ornamental Landscape Plants in the Western States addresses strategies to create defensible space around homes and the practice of providing guidance on plant flammability.
The study notes: “To give property owners and landscape professionals guidance for regulatory purposes, fire resistant plant lists are frequently provided. However, these plant lists are based on anecdotal information rather than scientific data or may only consider a few characteristics for ignition-resistant plants… Although there are numerous studies on vegetative fuels and flammability, most pertain to wildland vegetation, were conducted in regions other than California or the western United States and/or tested plant specimens not necessarily relevant to California ornamental landscaping.”
While it’s desirable to have a checklist of ‘approved plants,’ it’s perhaps not that simple. There are no ‘fire resistant’ plants. Current individual plant flammability estimates are meaningless. There almost certainly are differences in flammability by species; we just don’t know what they really are or yet how best to measure it. The process has often been based on asking the commercial ornamental landscaping industry and not on scientific research or experimentation.
Landscape design and maintenance are important. Our whole community can be considered a landscape. We do want to design for the interruption of fire fuel ladders /conduits – both horizontal and vertical. Our maintenance goal is to keep it moist by removing dead/dry fuels and keeping plants hydrated.
For fire, we must start at the house, and move out from there. Vegetation clearance may be less relevant in high-density situations. Your neighbor’s house may be your biggest threat. Flammability of products other than plants that may be part of the home environment should also be considered. Ignition resistant building materials and construction design for outdoor structures and home maintenance should be a key focus. A community-wide fire-safety approach may be the most effective. After all, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
In summary, current fire-resistant plant lists are inadequate. There almost certainly are differences in flammability by species; we just do not know what they really are. Use them if you want. Just don’t imagine they make a difference. Don’t let the list question distract us from the important work in front of us. The penalties for choosing unwisely are severe. This mandatory OVA policy needs to be rescinded.
Mary Ellen King Oakmont