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Planning a fire-smart landscape doesn’t have to be hard. First, consider the existing plants, budget constraints, and maintenance requirements. Next, understand the three defensible space zones, the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, and shrubs that surround it. The idea is to decrease the energy and speed of a fire by eliminating continuous, dense vegetation vertically and horizontally. Defensible space allows a safer space to defend property. Plant spacing and maintenance is key.

Zone 0: 0 to 5 feet from the house. This is the most critical area.
Minimize combustible materials and separate plants with non-combustible materials (concrete, brick, rocks, decomposed granite, gravel). Eliminate combustible plants and mulch within 5’ of structures, especially under windows.

Zone 1: 5 to 30 feet from the house. Separate plantings and garden
beds with hardscape and provide ample plant spacing to slow the spread of flames. Select plants that are easy to maintain that do not produce excessive debris or contain volatile oils.

Zone 2: 30 to 100 feet from the house. Here, you can use larger shrubs and trees planted in widely spaced groups or “islands.” Consider the mature size of plants and shrubs to maintain spaces.

For more fire-smart landscaping tips, visit UC Marin Master Gardeners at

Fire Safe Marin

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