Conifer evergreens, like junipers and pine trees, have always been popular in northern Nevada. They are low maintenance, don’t need too much water and stay colorful throughout the year. At the same time though, the foliage is very flammable.
“Junipers are worst of them all," Jon with Moana Nursery said. "Once it catches on fire, which is very easy to do, it burns at a high temperature and it will burn at such a high temperature that it will ignite the siding of a house."
And last Wednesday, it was evident. Nearly two dozen people were left homeless when workers were welding a metal staircase. Sparks flew into nearby juniper bushes and spread to the units.
Seven apartments were destroyed; five animals had to be rescued. Three people who tried to put the fire out and suffered minor injuries.
"Junipers,” Jon said. “By their nature are very dirty underneath with a lot of dead needles that we often don't get to as far as cleaning and plus, their bark makes them flammable."
"We are trying to push very hard the idea of ‘Junk the Junipers,’” Reno Fire Chief Sandy Munns said. “Get rid of the ornamental junipers and use fire safe landscaping materials."
Every spring, the Reno Fire Department, the Moana Nursery and other agencies hold this campaign, where homeowners can bring in this high-fire hazard, for a plant with a low fire risk. However, they are still pretty popular in the area.
Moana Nursery recommends, if you do want to landscape your yard with conifer evergreens, like junipers, cedar, pine or spruce, go ahead and plan them about 30’ from your home.