Rebuilding In Malibu and Ventura County – Fire Defense Pro Tips (Part 2 of 3)

Blog, Design+Build, General Contractor, Malibu

In the second of a series of posts about rebuilding Malibu after last year’s devastating Woolsey Fire, we take a closer look at some of the initiatives homeowners who are rebuilding or restoring their homes can take to help prevent the kind of destruction that can come at the hands of mother nature during fire season in California’s premier coastal enclave.

The first line of defense for any homeowner living in an area prone to wildfire is lot construction.

In this installment, we fight fire with fire. That is, we use mother nature’s own devices to help mitigate the chances a wildfire will reach your doorstep at all, let alone destroy your livelihood.

While there are several components that fall under this umbrella when planning and implementing the rebuilding and restoration process, here we will zero the focus in on one in particular. Counteracting wildfires with fire resistant vegetation and landscaping can go a long way toward hindering total devastation during the course of Southern California’s inevitable fire season.


It is the perimeter of the home that becomes the first in a series of preventative methods a homeowner can take in order to safeguard their property. Strategic landscape design and implementation is just the first of many.

By employing a meticulous landscape design (you can lean on your general contractor for reliable referrals to competent and forward-thinking landscaping firms and experts) you can knowledgeably and capably arrest a fire’s progress.


1. Fire Resistant Vegetation:

The most basic rule to remember when choosing a landscaping design is to use plants native to the area. It is invasive species, foreign to California’s dry climate, that promote the spread of wildfire.

Think:  Yucca, a resilient plant that is a native and – as with other plant species indigenous to the area – it takes longer to burn because it has adapted to California’s climate.

2. Turf Removal:

Create a defensible space (about a hundred feet around your home) by choosing vegetation that doesn’t shed.

Think: No to pine needles, trees that shed leaves, and flammable plants within thirty yards from your home. If you choose to employ these in your landscape design, implement strident and continuous landscaping practices that clear debris from your yard on a continual basis, making the area surrounding your home less prone to flame and radiant heat.

3. Smart Substitutes:

There are strategic swaps for traditional landscaping choices a homeowner can make that will make all the difference when it comes to fire prevention.

Think: Lemonade Berry as a substitute for a traditional hedge. Not only further fire resistant than your conventional hedge, it can also be used in teas and eaten fresh! As a bonus, it can grow up to 25 feet, giving the homeowner addtional privacy and landscape design options.

4. After the fire:

Low-growing, root-based plants that are authentic to California are a key factor in mitigating the damage a fire can do. Even if the plant burns, the roots remain intact in many endemic plants, which works to retain slopes and soil that are also integral parts in strategic fire prevention, a subject we will address in our next post.

Think:  Sumac. It has adapted to the droughts and rainy seasons that make themselves at home in Malibu, laying waste to non-native plants and landscaping.

These are just a few of the myriad options available to homeowners, contractors, and landscape firms when it comes to strategic design in an area susceptible to wildfire, as is Malibu. It is in the homeowners best interest to employ experts to assist with designing the best defense against fire.

Farnsworth partners with some of the best architects in Los Angeles and Ventura County in order to facilitate your Design Build needs as a homeowner. For more on our design-build process or on building a custom home in Malibu, Ventura County or Los Angeles contact Farnsworth Builders at 888-805-1757.