WELCOME to Living-with-Fire.org

A portal to information and resource links to help you adapt to life with wildfire.

I am a retired federal employee who spent 35 years managing fires and natural and cultural resources in national parks and on public lands. I know that we can’t stop the tidal wave of wildfires that are upon us, so I am dedicating my time to trying to help others adapt to life with wildfire.

The subject matter is diverse and there is a wealth of resources available on the Internet which can be time consuming to locate. I created this website to facilitate exploration and learning that ideally leads to collaborative action. I make no claims to completeness, authorship, ownership, or proprietary interest in the materials provided unless specifically indicated. Most of the information is already available through an Internet search.

The original website was created to support a course I instructed in 2020 with Mary Kwart, a retired federal fire management specialist. I want to thank Mary for her contributions to the original site and for allowing me to retain some of her materials.

I want to thank Walter Sydoriak for designing, developing, and maintaining the website. I could not have created this tool without him.

Charisse Sydoriak, January 9, 2022

More information

Who created this tool? The information in this Fire-Resistant Plant List Generator was compiled by Charisse Sydoriak. She has 35 years of experience as a federal lands fire and natural resources manager. She started her career as a fire behavior and effects monitor and field botanist in Yosemite National Park in 1980, and retired as the chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in December 2015. She has no professional background in horticulture but loves to garden, especially with native plants. She is a certified Volunteer Wildfire Risk Assessment Program (WRAP) assessor in Ashland Oregon and teaches classes on fire-resistant landscaping. The functionality of the Plant List Generator was designed and programmed by Walter Sydoriak who is also a WRAP assessor in Ashland Oregon.

Why was this tool created? As a WRAP volunteer we are frequently asked to make recommendations about planting around homes in an urban environment. Home owners and residents are particularly interested in which landscaping plants are fire-resistant, drought tolerant, pollinator friendly, and deer resistant. All of those attributes are open to interpretation. To better advise property owners and residents Charisse started investigating the options available in local and regional publications and then started exploring on-line. She discovered many issues.

How was the “fire-resistant” information derived? The relative flammability data in this generator was compiled through a meta analysis of published information and on-line resources. Data was mined from multiple references which are cited in the References spreadsheet and in individual cell “Notes” if the information came from an Internet website.

How was the horticulture-specific information derived? Data was mined from multiple references which are provided in the references worksheek and in individual cell “Notes” if the information came from an Internet search website. Many of the horticulture attributes are blank. It is our hope that professionals will help us to fill in the blanks.

DISCLAIMER: The developer and contributors to this database make no claims of accuracy, completeness, authorship, ownership, or proprietary interest in the information and disclaim all warranties and guarantees to the information in the database and assume no liability or responsibility with respect to the information or application of the tool. Most of the information is already available through an Internet search. The software is original and proprietary.

Database Administration. There are likely dozens of fire-resistant plant lists that were not included in the database as “source” information. A decision was made not to include fire-resistant plant claims unless the claimant also recommended where the plant should be located relative to structures. An exception was made for published Oregon State University fire-resistant plant lists. Several OSU publications were the sources of the original database information. Many other sources were subsequently investigated and incorporated..

Database Updates. The database can be readily expanded as we get requests for information on landscaping plants not yet in the database and find more sources of relevant information. Send research requests to lifewithfire@gmail.com. Until a suitable administrative host agrees to sponsor this tool, we will periodically release updates of the database on our living-with-fire.org website.

The Problem with Plant Lists. A major shortcoming is the fact that there is no standardized methodology for testing flammability and assigning plants to prescribed “hazard ignition zones.” Established plant lists from across the country frequently say different things or say nothing at all about where a plant should be located to be considered “safe” or “firewise”. Check out this gardening article about the problem with plant lists:

The author concludes that it is more productive to focus on proper maintenance “than choosing landscaping plants from flammability lists.” While that conclusion may be warranted given the conflicting information on plant lists, the author also states that maintaining “proper distance from combustible surfaces…” is key. Properly designed flammability tests establish that distance.

Complicating the problem is the disparity of opinions on many supposedly fire-resistant plants. Many of these opinions are anecdotal. Until standardized methods are applied to classify a species or entire genus as “fire-resistant”, drought tolerant, and similar, we need the means to independently make informed choices. In recognition of this need, ~99% of the attribution claims for more than 15 attributes are ascribed to a source (aka claimant). Publications from academic institutions are emphasized, but unpublished on line sources and professional knowledge was occasionally used.

Let us know
how we can help.

%d bloggers like this: