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New Big Sky group aims to help homeowners keep lawns, gardens wildfire resistant

Aplenscapes .jpg
Posted at 1:16 PM, Jul 08, 2024

BIG SKY — Living in Montana, we’re no stranger to drought or wildfires and there is a new group that is working to beautify lawns all while keeping your home safe.

“We know that in Big Sky, we're 96% higher risk of wildfires than the rest of the nation,” says Dustin Tetrault, Fire Chief of Big Sky Fire Department.

The Big Sky Fire Department, Big Sky SNO, Gallatin River Task Force, and Grow Wild came together to form Alpenscapes—a group that promotes planting sustainable landscaping to reduce wildfire risk.

“You know, that initial zero to five feet and that zero to 30 feet landscaping around the structure is one of the most important things; that determines whether or not a structure is going to be able to survive on its own,” says Tetrault.

Alpenscapes aims to educate homeowners on what to grow or decorate in their gardens.

“Focus on that area of the home and to make that noncombustible,” says Tetrault.

As Montana dries up, the group also aims to promote water-wise plants that reduce water consumption.

“When you think about how wildfires start, embers come in and they hit a home, right? And then they fall down next to the home,” says Tetrault.

Tetrault explains the biggest thing to avoid close to your home.

“Anything with needles, nothing with cones, obviously, kind of in that initial five feet,” says Tetrault.

Tetrault says maintaining plants in the five to 30 foot range is key to keeping plants from becoming engulfed in flames.

“Outwards of that 30 feet, you know, just trying to minimize those types of that type of vegetation that's within that 30 feet,” says Tetrault.

Tetrault says there are still plants that help reduce wildfire risk and are drought resistant.

“Chokecherries, aspens, and a lot of those, you know, more trees that stay, hold their moisture,” says Tetrault.

The group has a list of hundreds of plants that are optimal to grow in southwest Montana and still look good in lawns.