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By Roger Boddaert
Special to the Village News 

Lilac fire revisited a year later


Last updated 12/31/2018 at 11:22am

It was last December that the raging Lilac Fire blew across the hills of the community of Bonsall and the south end of Fallbrook.

The fire started along the Interstate 15 freeway corridor, and the flames quickly were blown across the rolling terrain of West Lilac Road over to Camino Del Rey and down the San Luis Rey River bed.

I was called in to assist several of those fire victims with damaged landscapes. A friend of mine lost his huge greenhouses that burnt to the ground with thousands upon thousands of rare and unique exotic plants. Another client’s entire landscape and guest house were destroyed by the fire. One year later, there are many success stories to be told of recovery.

One site on West Lilac Road had the entire two-acres burn to the ground, losing the entire hillside planting along with an avocado grove and one guest house. After surveying the fire damage on the site, I helped the homeowner to rebuild and rejuvenate the garden setting and bring it back to life.

Upon the first review of this garden, it appeared that all the plantings were lost, but when inspecting the inner bark on the trees, there appeared to be some live cambium tissue. We immediately installed a drip irrigation system to rehydrate the plants, not only from the flames but from the long heat exposure that the plants incurred from the fire.

With patience, water and prayer, the large pepper trees in this one garden started to sprout small twigs of greenery. A new drought-tolerant plant palette was planted, and the ground was starting to come to life again. Organic compost was laid down to shelter and protect the new plants, and today the garden is on the rebound through proper stewardship and proper planning.

After fires, it is important to review what is salvageable and what expenditure of time is required to revitalize fire damaged plantings. All too many times I see the bulldozers come in after a fire and wipe the earth clean and not consider what is recoverable.

I have respect for nature’s power of recovery as the 2007 Rice Canyon fire that jumped the I-15 freeway corridor and traveled down the Santa Margarita riverbed burned my own native landscape.

Fire has become a given these days, and fire officials said that the fire season is now year-round here in California. But there are many ways in which a well thought out fire escape plan can be employed around homes.

First of all is the brush management, to lighten the fire-load of highly flammable types of plants is a priority. The Santa Ana winds that blow now from season to season are another contributor spreading cinders miles away from the origin of wildland fires.

The art of zoning your landscape has great merit and using plants that will not add to the combustibility around the home is a key component.

Having garden hoses in place and maybe a submersible pump in a pool or body of water like a Jacuzzi might aid in wetting down the environment as a fire might be approaching.

Proper tree and shrub maintenance should be an annual chore. Keeping the plants well hydrated, so they are not in a water stress mode, will be helpful. When plants are stressed, they become prone to the quagmire of insects like the gold-spotted oak borer and the western bark beetle.

It is estimated that in our California forests, there are over 100 million dead or dying trees, pines, cedars, oaks and others. This fuel load must be managed; forest thinning and prescribed burns are ways of cutting down on the complexity of fires.

Contact your local fire department to come to evaluate your property and give a report on what needs to be done and implement it.

The wildland-urban interface where housing and wildland areas meet is linked to the biodiversity of land, water and air quality, so we need to plan for smarter communities. There are many solutions out there, but it will take planning, implementation and is not a quick fix which has been stated by fire officials.

The ever-changing weather patterns play a large part in a global challenge, and residents must adopt new thinking for our communities regarding fire.

The rainforest needs to replenish the trees that are being lost to slash cutting in the Amazon basin, and the trees that are dying from insects and pathological diseases throughout the world.

Wintertime is a good season for planting trees, both ornamental and fruiting trees that you can be harvested for your table. Also, act locally and think globally. We all have one home, and that is planet Earth. So, for 2019 make a new commitment to work for the good of all including Mother Earth.

“May the forests be with you, and yours.”

Roger Boddaert is the Tree Man of Fallbrook and Maker of Natural Gardens and can be reached at (760) 728-4297


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