Defensible space will help slow or stop the spread of wildfire and protect your home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important to help protect firefighters when they are defending your home.
Your home may be the most valuable investment you ever make. If you live in a high-risk fire hazard area, protect against the chance of losing that investment by creating defensible space and "hardening" your home with fire-resistant construction materials and design.
Creating defensible space does not mean you need a ring of bare dirt around your home! Through proper planning, you can have both a beautiful landscape and a fire-safe home.
FIRESafe MARIN recommends homeowners utilize the "Home Ignition Zone" concept to make up the required 100 feet of defensible space.
Three zones make up the required 100 feet of defensible space. Zone Zero extends 0-5' from structures, including the building itself, and should be completely free of combustibles. Zone 1 begins 5' from your house and extends 30 feet away. The most aggressive clearance is required closest to the structure. Zone 2 lies beyond the home defense zone, extending at least 100 feet from the house or to your property line. Greater defense zone widths may be necessary if your home is on a steep slope or in a windswept exposure. The Access Zone, Zone 3, is adjacent to roads and driveways, 14' overhead and 10' from the edge of the roadway. Specific recommendations for each zone are described below.
Zone Zero, sometimes referred to as the "Immediate Zone" is the area nearest your house, 0'-5', including the surfaces of the structure itself. There should be ZERO combustibles in this zone! Take steps to 'harden" your home with fire and ignition-resistant materials and design!
This zone extends 0'-5' from your house. It's the area closest to your house, including plants, decks, outdoor furniture, and the outside walls and coverings. This area is most vulnerable and should be more aggressively maintained for fire resistance.
Zone 1, sometimes referred to as the "home Ignition Zone" extends from your house's exterior walls to a distance of 30'. The "Lean, Clean, and Green" zone.
This extends 0'-30' out from buildings, structures, decks, etc, and overlaps the Home Ignition Zone described above.
Zone 2 extends from 30' to at least 100' - more Defensible Space may be required based on topography, vegetation, or building construction (for example, if you live on a hill, in a drainage, or an area surrounded by unusually dense or flammable vegetation, or have a wood shake roof, as much as 150' may be required). California and local laws do not require you to create Defensible Space on property you don't own. Work with your neighbor to gain permission to clear defensible space on their property if it will help protect your home!
Extending from 30'-100' or to your property line at a minimum (you may be required to provide more clearance due to steep slopes, nearby vegetation conditions, and/or other conditions identified by the fire department). This zone should include at a minimum:
Zone 3, the "access" zone, extends from 3' to at least 10' horizontally from the edge of roads and driveways, and 14' overhead.
Property owners are responsible for vegetation adjacent to roads and driveways. Access roads are critical for evacuation and first responder access. Maintenance is required year-round.
Work with your neighbors
Many homes do not have 100’ of space between structures and parcel lines. Property owners are required to maintain defensible space to their property line. Work with neighbors to help provide defensible space for their homes, and ask neighbors for help if their property threatens yours. In most cases, the most effective solution is a cooperative approach between neighbors.
Remember that the most important zone is closest to your structures - from zero to five feet. If you’ve taken all of the steps outlined here and worked to “harden” your home, neighboring properties typically present only a minimal risk.
Work with neighbors or land managers to reduce fuel on nearby properties or create fuel breaks to help reduce the risk to your community. Contact your local Fire Department for help organizing your neighbors to create a Firewise USA© site. FIRESafe MARIN will help, too!
Defensible Space is required by law! Check with your local fire department for any additional defensible space or weed abatement ordinances.
The information contained on this page is derived from several print and online sources: