With many parts of the country experiencing summers that are hotter and drier than normal, apartment residents and property managers are becoming increasingly concerned about fire safety. Fires that begin outdoors are of particular concern during periods of seasonal heat and low precipitation. Following are five ways that you can help reduce the chances of an outdoor fire in your complex.
Replace Grass With Fire-Resistant Ground Cover
With many areas of the country experiencing water shortages, keeping lawns well-watered isn't always possible, so many apartment complex managers allow the grass to go dormant in periods of low rainfall. This means dry, brown grass that can cause fire to spread rapidly. Replacing grass with a low-maintenance, fire-resistant ground cover such as ornamental strawberries and iceplant will help lessen risk of grass fires as well as help keep water and upkeep costs down. Most property management companies work with local landscapers, so ask yours for some good ideas concerning fire-resistant ground covers that would grow well in your area.
If you decide to leave your lawn grass in place, keeping it well-mowed will help reduce the risk of grass fires.
Remove Plants That Are Particularly Flammable
All plants will burn if exposed to enough heat, but some are way more flammable than others. Juniper, for example, is commonly used in commercial landscaping because it's evergreen and easy to care for. However junipers also one of the most flammable plants available and should be removed, especially if they are used in mass plantings or as ground covers. They contain a powerful resin that is highly flammable, and mature juniper bushes often contain dead and dried vegetative material that increases fire risks. You should also consider removing evergreen trees such as spruce, cedar, cypress, pine, and fir, particularly if they are located less than 30 feet away from the apartment building.
Use Fire-Resistant Landscaping Plants
If you like the appearance and texture of evergreen plants, consider using broadleaf evergreens such as myrtle or evergreen azalea in your landscaping. If you really want a conifer, redwoods have far less sap than the species listed above and are a good choice provided you have enough room in the grounds of your apartment complex to accommodate these large trees. Other fire resistant-landscaping plants include most hardwood trees such as ash, oak, aspen, maple, and willow. Shrubs and herbaceous perennials that are classified as fire-resistant include sage, California redbud, coreopsis, French lavender, rosemary, and any of the numerous small, succulent rock gardening plants such as mini-jade and hens-and-chicks.
Keep Outdoor Spaces Free of Vegetative Debris
Once leaves fall or twigs and branches break off, they dry up quickly and become fire hazards. Always make certain to keep gutters, roofs, and other parts of the building free of vegetative debris, and always keep overhanging branches pruned back at least five feet from the building. Remove dead and dying matter from trees and shrubs as soon as you notice it - even fire-resistant plants will burn quickly if they are poorly maintained.
Create and Enforce a Strict No Smoking Policy
A strictly enforced no-smoking policy should be in place on parts of the property. Property managers who advertise that smoking is allowed outside only are only inviting problems with fire safety. Even if outdoor ash receptacles are made available to smokers, stray ashes can and do cause a significant number of fires -- in fact, smoking is a leading cause of fire deaths in this country. Do yourself, your tenants, and your community a favor and just say no to prospective tenants who smoke. Keep in mind that all of the precautions listed above can quickly be undone by just one careless smoker.