A recent fire in East Wenatchee demonstrates the danger of Arborvitae planted near homes. An ignition source caught dead material beneath the shrubs and quickly spread to the over story vegetation. Despite the homeowner’s efforts to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, the intensity and rate of spread were too severe. The fire progressed from the hedge row to the structure charring the siding and entering the attic space through the gable vent. The damage is extensive and highlights the dangers of this fuel type in close proximity to structures.
Arborvitae is commonly used as hedging for privacy. While it stays green year-round, resins and dead matter within the plant make them extremely flammable. Open one up and have a look and smell for yourself! I’ve heard them referred by fellow fire fighters as “gas plants,” “tree torches,” and “the absolute worst thing to plant near your house.” Each namesake comes with a story, from cigarettes to wildfires, and the consensus is we can do better.
Check out the WSU Master Gardener’s Program brochure titled:
“Beware of ARBORVITAE Plant Torches” Listed on our wildfire links and resources page.
Thank you to the residents for permission to share their experience. We're relieved they were able to get all members of the family, including the goldfish, out of the house.