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Defensible Space

Preparing for Wildland Season: What Can You Do?

Every year across our Nation, some homes survive after a major wildfire, while others do not. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in fire-prone wildland areas like ours. 

There are two primary goals in creating defensible space to reduce the wildfire threat and better protecting your home and property:
  1. Reduce the flammability of your home
  2. Reduce the fuels around your home.
This defensible space also provides for safety of our firefighters when we protect your home during a wildland fire.
If you wait until there is smoke in the air to take fire-safe steps around your property, it's too late.

Think and Act in Zones 

When preparing your property to withstand a wildfire, it's useful to think in terms of zones. In some cases this may also require working with neighbors or other land owners. (If your neighbors will not or cannot cooperate you should at least clear to your property line.)

Zone 1: Home Ignition Zone
The most critical area is your home ignition zone, which includes your home itself and the landscaping within 30 feet. Remember: windblown embers or firebrands can ignite a home while leaving the surrounding vegetation untouched or only charred. Some tips to better protect this zone include:
  • Clear pine needles or other woody debris from rain gutters and off the roof.
  • Clear all vegetation and debris from under decks and touching the foundation.
  • Be sure all eaves and attic vents are screened with a small, 1/8 -inch screen.
  • Move stacks of firewood away from the structure.
  • Keep vegetation in this area trimmed low, well-irrigated, free of dead material (leaves and dry grass), and small shrubs or bushes spaced apart to prevent a continuous path of fuel to your home.
  • Replace hazardous vegetation with less flammable, irrigated landscaping or low growing ground cover and flowering plants.
Zone 2: Defensible Space Zone
This is the second most critical zone and includes the area from 30 to 100 feet (or to your property line) from your home.
  • Remove dead and dying grass, shrubs and trees.
  • Reduce the density of vegetation and “ladder fuels” by thinning and keeping them free of dead material.
  • Remove dense undergrowth and thin out densely-crowded smaller trees.
  • Experts recommend keeping 10 feet of space between trees and shrubs.
  • Mature trees should be limbed up 6 to 10 feet above the ground.
While there are many steps that can be taken to enhance the survivability of your home and property when wildfire occurs, it's important to remember that each step you take, no matter how small, can make a large difference. 

Sonoma County Vegetation Management Ordinance

After the devastating wildfires that burned through Sonoma County in October 2017, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors proposed an adopted a County-wide Ordinance to better prepare our communities in case of another event like that. These regulations are in Section 13A, see link below, and is what our District inspects properties to. We conduct property inspections and will use the Ordinance to write notice of violations and orders to abate. The District wants our community to be prepared if a wildfire starts in our area. Following this Ordinance will better prepare your homes and will increase the chance of surviving a wildfire. 

Sonoma County Vegetation Management Ordinance Section 13A

Vegetation Management "Defensible Space" Inspections FAQs

If you have any questions or would like schedule a consultation with us please contact us.