Letter Re: Brushy Hillsides: Better to Leave As-Is for Erosion/Landslide Control

I’ve been reading your superb site for some time and have learned a lot. There’s lots of interesting and helpful stuff.

As a family, we are about to leave the shores of ‘Airstrip One’ [England] and have purchased a few acres of Greek island to return to our smallholding roots. Our patch, in common with most places in the Med, is in an earthquake zone and we own a hilltop and steep slope. The area is also prone to brush fires in the summer.

My query is, should we cut back the vegetation on the slope for fire suppression or is the need to prevent land-slip, either by earth tremor or seasonal rains, more of an issue? Many of the locals simply cut back to bare earth, but there is a significant amount of landslip in these places and we do not want to awaken one morning and find our home in the neighbour’s olive grove at the bottom of the hill…

Any comments/advice appreciated. Keep up the good work and congratulations on becoming full time on the site. I wish you every success for the future. – Mike in England

JWR Replies: Of the two risks, fire is the greater concern. I’d recommend a minimum 20 foot firebreak around your house and keeping the remaining brush pruned low. Since you will be building from scratch, use fireproof construction. (If it is masonry, be sure that it is very well reinforced, since Greece is indeed earthquake country. Although you will probably not have access to the equipment and materials in Greece, SurvivalBlog readers in other areas might consider Monolithic dome or Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction. Monolithic domes are virtually fireproof and ICF houses are fairly resistant to fire, depending on the type of roof used.