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Be Ember Aware Tip #12: Dead or Alive?

Posted 8/4/2009

Ember Aware Tip #12

Note: This is the 12th in an ongoing series of tips for homeowners living in fire-prone areas. Each week, Cooperative Extension Natural Resource Specialist Ed Smith will be providing Be Ember Aware tips for homeowners who want to reduce the risk of losing their home to embers created from wildfires. Nevada has more than 250 communities that face a wildfire threat, and 68 communities are at extreme and high risk. For more information on protecting your home from wildfires, visit

By: Ed Smith, natural resource specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

(775) 782-9960,

Dead vegetation poses a much greater fire hazard than living plants. Actively growing plants can control the amount of water in their tissues by drawing on moisture from the soil to get more or by transpiring moisture to reduce the amount. Through irrigation, we can ensure that living plants in our landscape have plenty of moisture in their leaves and stems, which is a good thing during fire season.

On the other hand, the water content of dead vegetation is largely controlled by the amount of moisture in the air. If it’s a hot, sunny, windy day, with low humidity, dead vegetation will be very dry. The drier the vegetation, the more likely it will be ignited and the faster it will burn. Dead vegetation should be routinely removed from around the home, roof, deck and wooden fences during fire season.

Dead vegetation includes:

  • Dried grass, such as cheatgrass, and dried weeds
  • Fallen pine needles and leaves
  • Dead branches on the ground or still attached to living plants
  • Dead shrubs and trees

To learn more about protecting your home from the ember threat, visit and request a free copy of our new publication, Be Ember Aware!, download it at or contact Ed Smith at Be Ember Aware is a component of the Living With Fire program, an interagency program coordinated by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

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