Nov. 30 2017 03:00 AM

During the wine country fires in Oakland Hills, California, 26 years ago, the state of each house’s surrounding landscape had an effect on whether or not the house survived. Survivors are sharing the lessons they learned about fire safe landscaping.

After losing her home to the fire, Sue Piper now knows not to use flammable mulch or plants, shrubs and trees that can spread fire. She also suggests placing gravel or stone right around the house, five feet of nothing flammable and 30 feet of defensible space, with no overhanging branches.

“Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from the ground and under your deck. So if you’re storing your firewood under your deck, that’s not the right place to store it,” Piper explains. She also emphasized the importance of keeping up with maintaining plants, to avoid them drying out and becoming a liability.

Piper works with a crew of volunteers to maintain the Gateway Emergency Preparedness Center, a demonstration garden where the do’s and don’ts of what to plant and what not to plant are on display. “We’re only as strong as our weakest link in the neighborhood,” she said.