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Wildfire Resilience - Seasonal Grasses

May 14, 2023 — It’s nearly that time of year when the golden hills of California may have you humming “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain” from America the Beautiful or “I saw below me that golden valley... this land was made for you and me.” from This Land is Your Land.

Our golden hillsides, a result of our Mediterranean climate, truly make us the Golden State. Are California and the Mediterranean the only places like this? No. Mediterranean climates also exist in central Chile, western South Africa and southwestern and southern Australia. Mediterranean climates are characterized by wet winters and hot, dry summers with little moisture. California gets much of its precipitation between October and May. The summer months lack rain and are coupled with high temperatures and low relative humidities.

California has lost most of its native perennial grasses beginning when early explorers started grazing cattle as early as the mid-1500s. Annual grasses, such as the now dominant wild oat grass, are mixed with California poppies which comprise much of what we see as the rolling golden hills today. It is hard to imagine that California was probably a lot greener year-round over 400 years ago. Since oat grass began to pop up in early to mid-April of this year, it is already two to three months through its four-to-five-month life expectancy. Some will grow nearly three feet tall! As warmer temperatures move in, soils will dry rapidly and lower relative humidities will dry these grasses quickly. Although some of these grasses may still be green into early July, most will be golden brown sooner.

Golden grasses may paint a majestic picture in the landscape but they can also bring an increased threat of wildfire to your property. To make your property more wildfire resilient, you should make plans to cut these grasses to less than four inches (4”) within your home or building’s “home” ignition zone. This applies to a 100’ minimum area around a building and areas along driveways and roads. Mowing, string trimming and even grazing can be means to get this done. This is another great weekend wildfire preparedness project! #WildfireResilientEDC

For more information on how to make your property wildfire resilient, visit

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