Homes survive wildfire through a combination of the following factors:
- Awareness and management of combustible materials on the property, especially within the first 5 feet of the home.
- Incorporation of fire and ember resistant construction materials, installation details, and maintenance.
- Careful plant selection, landscape placement, and maintenance.
0 feet – 5 feet from buildings, decks, and other structures
The goal is to avoid home ignition from blowing embers.
- Use noncombustible materials such as rock, stone pavers, cement, bare earth, gravel, or sand.
- Remove all plants and shrubs near windows.
- Remove leaves and needles from your roof, skylight, and rain gutters.
- Clear vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks.
- Remove dead branches that overhang or touch your roof. Keep branches 10 feet away from your chimney and roof.
- Remove all leaves, needles, or other debris that fall in this zone.
5 feet – 30 feet from buildings, decks, and other structures
The goal is to reduce heat and movement of flame
- Remove all dead plants, grass, and weeds
- Actively prune live shrubs
- Relocate woodpiles outside of this zone
- Avoid extensive use of mulch, which can convey fire to the house
- Limit fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches to a depth of 2 inches
- Move all gas and propane tanks outside of this zone
30 feet – 100 feet from buildings, decks, and other structures, or to the property line
- Create islands of vegetation with horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees.
- Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees.
- Choose low-growing, irrigated, non-woody plants such as vegetables, succulents, erosion-control grasses, flowers, or lawn to create landscaping in this zone.
- Mow or remove dead or dried vegetation.
- Trim trees regularly to maintain a minimum of 10 feet of clearance between branches of adjoining trees or shrubs.
- Mow any grass to a maximum height of 4 inches.
- To protect water quality, maintain vegetation near waterways; do not clear to bare soil. Vegetation removal can cause soil erosion that damages streams, especially on steep slopes. Remove dead trees and shrubs, leaving the roots in place, if practical.
- Break up dense shrub cover on slopes by creating small islands of pruned shrubs staggered horizontally.
- Prior to evacuation, pull patio furniture, play sets, and gas BBQ tanks as far as possible from any structure, and bring cushions inside.
Proper Placement Makes A Difference
Remember, any plant can burn under the right conditions. For all plants, maintenance is key.
When choosing species to plant in your 5- to 30-foot defensible space zone, look for plants with these characteristics:
- Able to store water in leaves and stems.
- Produce limited dead and fine material.
- Maintain high moisture content with limited watering.
- Low-growing or open form.
- Open loose branches with a low volume of total vegetation.
- Low levels of volatile oils or resins. Slow growing with little maintenance needed.
- Not considered invasive.