Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surrounds it. It is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space requires establishing a healthy, well-maintained landscape with native plants and trees within your property and community zones.
What To Expect during your Defensible Space Inspection
Fire Chief Debunks Defensible Space
Wildfire Defensible Space: Zone Zero
Did you know?
Buildings ignite during wildfires as a result of one or more of these three basic wildfire exposures: embers, radiant heat, and direct flame contact.
“Firescaping” is landscape design that reduces house and property vulnerability to wildfire. The goal is to develop a landscape with thoughtful “hardscape” design, coupled with careful choice of plants that offer the best defensible space and enhance the property. The idea is to surround the house with things that are less likely to burn while being beautiful and easy to maintain. When building homes in wildfire-prone areas, fire safety must be the first major consideration in landscape design.
Prioritizing Landscaping During Drought
Supporting biodiversity and pollinators in a fire-smart garden
Fire-Smart Landscaping - FIRESafe MARIN and UC Marin Master Gardeners
Choose the Right Plants
Fire-smart planting is the cornerstone of a home’s defensible space. Remember that all plants will burn if poorly maintained. Choose preferred species, maintain plant and soil health, use species- and location-appropriate irrigation, and remove all dead material regularly.
Use the Right Mulch
Mulch plays an important role in Western residential landscapes. Between organic mulch (e.g., pine needles, bark, shredded western cedar, shredded rubber) and inorganic mulch (e.g., rock, gravel, and brick chips), inorganic mulches tend not to burn and are safe to use in any setting.
Use Non-Combustible Materials
Retaining walls can disrupt airflow, creating wind “eddies” that may help keep embers away from your house. Use masonry, gravel, or stone walls to separate plant groups and add variety and improve the fire resistance of your landscape.
Another way to break up fuel continuity is to use decorative rock, gravel and stepping stone pathways, cement driveways and walkways, and retaining walls as your landscape’s less flammable “hardscape.”
Replace bare, weedy, or unsightly patches near your home with ground cover, rock gardens, vegetable gardens, and fire-resistant mulches.
Understand Plant & Tree Spacing
The spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees is crucial to reduce the spread of wildfires. The spacing needed is determined by the type and size of brush and trees and the slope of the land.
The topography around your home or business, which includes the slope of the land and the direction the structure faces, is a major consideration in assessing the risk of exposure to wildfire.
Embers, Direct Flame & Radiant Heat
Fuel, Weather & Topography