Fire Safe Gardening

As last year’s blaze showed us, fire can strike at any time.

If you have explored your surroundings in Tehachapi at all, you will see plenty of evidence of that. Thousands of acres have been left blackened and scarred by fire in recent years. Last September’s fire being the most recent reminder, punctuating why fire safety is such an important issue.


As I met with Jeannine Giuffre, the president of the Tehachapi Fire Safe Council and driving force behind the Fire Safe Demonstration Garden at the Golden Hills Community Service District office, I asked her ”Why should people care about this Fire Safe Garden?”, and she in turn asked me “Have you done all you can to protect your home? It can be threatened at any time”  Many years ago she had a home burn down, and more recently she has watched the homes of neighbors go up in flames very close to hers.


In 2007 community leaders decided to create a Fire Safe Council in Tehachapi. Their mission is “to communicate the threat of wildfires, educate residents on ways to make their properties fire safe, and mitigate the actual danger to the communities we call home.” Creating a Fire Safe Demonstration Garden had been done in other communities, and has been proven to be a very successful way to get the word out about how homeowners can approach making their home environment safer.


One of the reasons a demonstration garden is so effective is that it shows people what is possible.

Jeannine believes many people have the idea that a fire safe landscape would include a large ugly strip of bare land all the way around the house. The Fire Safe Demonstration Garden  reveals that as a misconception, and shows the community that there are options.


Investing countless hours, Jeannine has designed, installed and maintained (with help from the Golden Hills Community Service District crew and Crew 81, a fire department hand crew) a beautiful garden. One of the unanticipated rewards that she has experienced has been watching people enjoy it. She has seen elderly people resting on the nearby bench, taking in the scenery and relaxing. Children often come and play in the garden, chasing lizards and observing insects in this peaceful setting. She even heard one little boy say “Dad, can we have a garden like this at our house?”  Her opinion is that if children see and enjoy this type of garden when they are young, they will be supportive of it and desire to incorporate the principles involved when they are grown.


Thanks to Jeannine Giuffre, and the Fire Safe Council, as well as the Golden Hills Community Service District, we have a model garden that we can learn from as well as enjoy.


The California Fire Alliance Recommends:

 Five Steps to Create a Smart Defensible Space:


  • Remove dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and dried leaves from 100 feet around your house.
  • Trim and separate plants and shrubs to stop fire from spreading.
  • Remove ladder fuels which are plants, shrubs and branches that let a fire on the ground climb into the trees.
  • Clear five feet around the base of your house and fill it with fire resistant plants or materials like rock or gravel.
  • Take care of the clean, open space 100 feet around your home on a regular basis.

The Fire Safe Demonstration Garden is located at the Golden Hills Community Service District Office: 21415 Reeves Street, Tehachapi.


There are a couple of other noteworthy public gardens we would like to mention as well:


In downtown Tehachapi there is the historic Errea house garden located at  310 South Green Street. For more information you can call 661-822-8152, or check out


In Bear Valley Springs there is the Community Service District’s Water Wise Garden, located at 28999 Lower Valley Road. For more information call 821-4428.


Each of these public gardens have been thoughtfully and generously inspired and crafted by citizens of our community. Numerous hours have been given, and each has a story to tell. Let’s not overlook the inspiration offered for our own gardens that we can find so close to home as we explore our public gardens right here in Tehachapi.

About the Author

Anna Smth

Terre Verte Landscape Design began in 2003 while Master Gardener Anna Smith was the staff horticulturist for Kern Counties only botanical garden, Mourning Cloak Ranch. Read More

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