Guidelines for recently burned landscape

This article has been taken from “Creating Fire- Resistant Landscapes, Gardens, And Properties in California’s Diverse Environments” by “Douglas Kent”. Guidelines for recently burned landscape is the visible features of an area of land, its land forms, and how they integrate with natural or man-made features which is explicitly explained at “Tree Service in Oakland

A well- planned and quick response to the possibility of erosion is needed in a domestic landscape. Before starting, however, the new conditions and processes should be understood. Working on a burned landscape can cause erosion.

Clean gutters and drains

Drainage ditches, pipes, gutters, and small dams should be cleaned immediately after a fire. Misdirected water from poorly maintained drainage devices is a leading cause of erosion, fire or not. Expect a lot of drainage maintenance two years following a fire because of the increase of transportable debris.

Minimize traffic

Keep all foot and equipment traffic on the burned site down to an absolute minimum. Any activity on a slope will increase the like hood of erosion. Activity weakens a soil’s bonds, dislodging soil particles. Activity on a slope may also disrupt the pattern of existing seeds, lowering germination rates. On flat ground, walking or working will compact the soil, lowering water- absorption rates. All avoidable work should be done after the threats of winter rain and erosion have passed.

Gently clean

Debris provides obstacles to wind and water, and should be removed until a plan of action has been developed. Once erosion work has begun, a gardener can prune the dead and injured limbs off surviving trees and shrubs.

Weeds should be encouraged to grow. Called opportunists, these weeds will help break the repellency layer, bring nutrients to a soil’s surface, and help hold the hill; until more desirable plants take hold. Typically annuals, some of these plants also have the ability to recharge the soil with nitrogen. Later, mowing the weeds before they go to seed will give the preferred plants a chance to grow.

Guidelines for recently burned landscape - Weeds
Guidelines for recently burned landscape – Weeds


Watering a recently burned landscape is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Watering recharges a soil with moisture, encouraging the surviving shrubs and seeds to sprout. It helps behind the finer soil particles together, protecting a bare landscape from the wind. Gently watering after a fire also begins to break down a soil’s water- repellency layer.

However, watering immediately before or during the rainy season can increase the amount of erosion a landscape creates. The ground will reach its water- saturation point more quickly if it’s moist before the first rains, which will increase water runoff, topsoil loss, and the chance of soil slips. Water the injured site just enough to keep the opportunists alive, but avoid deep watering.


Seeding a landscape to control erosion is a temporary solution to the problem. If a landscape is not replanted with deeper- rooted ground covers and shrubs, the risk of soil slips and landslides will be greater in four to seven years, as the burned landscape’s roots decompose and their grip on a hill weakens.

Importantly, be picky when choosing seeds. Some of the erosion mixes do indeed work, but only because they include aggressive plants. Annual rye-grass, for example, competes with desirable trees and shrubs, readily reseeds itself, and creates an abundance of flash fuels. Aggressive annuals can also migrate to native landscapes.

Protect high- risk areas

Slopes that have a high chance of erosion or are too steep with loose material, or areas that have already slipped, should not be planted or touched. Instead, water, should be diverted away from the slope and plastic sheeting laid over the area. A soils engineer should then be called. Work on risky sites increases its instability.

Guidelines for recently burned landscape
Guidelines for recently burned landscape – Landscape

Erosion Controls

The following recommendations for controlling erosion are used when the risk of water runoff, topsoil loss, and/or soil slips are likely. These recommendations are organized around the Three Ds.

Divert water

Diversion techniques are normally used to protect vulnerable areas from sheeting water coming from streets and other properties. The first response to any injured landscape should be keeping this sheeting water off the injury. Below are a variety of the common methods for temporarily diverting water.

Boards: Typically used for de-powering water, boards can divert, too. Using pretreated wood, at least 1 foot high and no thinner than 1 inch thick, runs them across the top of the soil. The boards are kept in place by pounding #3 rebar 1 foot into the ground. At least a 2 percent cross- slope is needed to keep the water and mud moving along the boards. If water cannot move along the boards, the water and soil will back up, eventually the soil and increasing the chances of a soil slip. Make sure that the boards always funnel the water toward a drainage system.

Diversion Ditch: A diversion ditch channels water away from structures and erosion risk areas. These ditches are trenches dug into a hill, which collect the water that flows onto a property. Diversion ditches usually channel the water to natural or artificial swales.

Dry walls: These small rock or concrete walls are used to channel and slow water, protecting structures and roads. These walls are made from stacked concrete or rock. Dry walls are inexpensive and quickly built. While dry walls can usually be constructed with materials found on a landscape, that are not as good as sandbags, boards, and ditches for diverting water.

Plastic sheeting: Plastic sheeting is an extreme measure and used to protect a soil’s surface from rainfall. This method of erosion control is used on slopes that are likely to slide. Rolled out across a steep slope, the plastic is buried under the soil at the top of the hill and then kept in place with sandbags, heavy rocks, or pins. Importantly, once the plastic is in place, build barriers, such as sandbags or drains, to channel water away from the hazardous area.

Sandbags: A common sight after burns and in flood areas, sandbags channel water and mud away from structures and roads. Fill the bags halfway with sand, and tuck their ends under themselves. When building the wall, the bags should be staggered, with the tucked end facing the flow of water. After a row of sandbags is laid, it should be stomped on, removing the air pockets that would allow seepage later. Sand- bags can also be used to hold down plastic sheeting and erosion – control matting. Sandbags are readily available and inexpensive.

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