The devastating firestorm of October 2017 left thousands of homes burned to the ground and facing the long arduous prospect of rebuilding. Fire relandscaping was a brand new experience for Details Landscape Art. In fact, we had designed and build several beautiful gardens in the Fountaingrove neighborhood over the last ten years, and, sadly, most of them burned.
In ‘Tuscany’, one particular section of Fountaingrove, all the homes had burned except one, although almost all of his landscaping was gone. And this homeowner called us in December 2017, to ask our help in developing an estimate that he could submit as part of an overall claim to his insurance company to recoup minor damages to his home as well as burned fencing and landscaping. Without photos of what had been there, we were limited to projecting a reasonable estimate of elements to build a new garden.
Upon receipt of insurance funds, we were hired to proceed with the installation. It was an eerie project…working in a neighborhood with no other standing homes was an unsettling feeling. There were hundreds of trucks working day and night, clearing, excavating, hauling and basically reducing the burned rubble to bare ground. The Army Corp. of Engineers was doing most of this work, seven days a week.
The front yard, which remained somewhat intact after the fire, required only a moderate amount of fire relandscaping. There had been two large lawns, and a few plants and a few burned trees. The three irrigation valves had melted, as had many of the lawn sprinkler heads. Since the PVC pipes survived underground, we were tasked with finding where they were located in relation to the burned valves, and with a little bit of detective work, we were able to install new valves and connect to the existing underground pipes. We suggested to the owner that one of the lawns be removed in favor of plants, and he agreed. The melted sprinkler heads were replaced, and the lawn was reshaped and edged with benderboard. Then it remained only to install a beautiful low maintenance tapestry of plants. A new drip irrigation system watered all the new plantings, and all was dressed with a layer of mini fir bark. A new exposed aggregate walkway was poured from the driveway around to the side garage door, with a small extension for garbage can storage.
In the back yard, which was on a steep slope and extremely rocky, there were the remnants of three olive trees which survived, but required some pruning and prayers for recovery. We installed a small ten foot diameter stamped concrete patio. To prepare for this patio we needed to excavate the slope to create a flatter area, and we left room behind this circle to install a low twelve inch high fieldstone dry stack wall to act as a retainer against the excavated slope. We replaced some damaged drainpipes, and cleared much of the loose rock and burned debris to prepare for plant material. Since the back yard abutted a natural open space,
the homeowner agreed to plant sparsely, using natives and deer resistant plants to enhance the natural setting.
Our first experience with fire relandscaping proved to be a successful and beautiful adventure.