"In a nutshell, the objective is to break the outermost masses of vegetation into an archipelago of plantings, offer minimal fuel leading toward the structure, and maintain an inner ring of fire-retardant plants like moisture-rich succulents and well-thinned shrubs.
For those, like my two friends, whose homes were miraculously spared, I have to wonder how much the landscaping was a factor. I had lunch with one of them today, a landscape architect with a home at the intersection of Stanwood and Sycamore Canyon - Hell Central, from what I've heard. Though she's "in the biz" she admitted that she ignored some of the basic principles of fire-wise landscaping. Perhaps this was where the firefighters made a stand."