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.

For best practices to protect your home and other structures, see our Home Hardening page.

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.

Landscaping Tips

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.

For best practices to protect your home and other structures, see our Home Hardening page.

SCCFSC offers a 30 minute Defensible Space Presentation geared for residents learning the requirements for the first time.
This presentation is also appropriate for HOAs and Road Maintenance Association meetings.