Regular vegetation control might help to reduce fire fuels surrounding your property.

5 things to do before fire season to build a defensible area around your house

Because of the protracted drought, the Sonoma County fire season now lasts more than half the year. Whatever the season, there is always something that can be done to make the area surrounding your house less susceptible to wildfires. Careful and consistent vegetation care on your land will limit the available fire fuels and create a defensible area.

What exactly is defensible space?

CalFire defines Defensible Space as “the buffer you construct between a structure on your property and the grass, trees, bushes, or any wildland area that surrounds it.” Creating this buffer can slow or stop wildfire spread and make your home less vulnerable to oncoming flames, radiant heat, and embers. It also provides firemen with a safer space to protect your property.

Zones of Defensive Space

CalFire has established three Defensible Zones, with Zone 2 being the farthest away from your house and Zone 0 being less than five feet away. Each zone has its own set of legal rules. Though Zones 0 and 1 will be the major emphasis of this vegetation management guide, it is important to have a general understanding of the needs for all zones.

Zone 0

The Ember-Resistant Zone encompasses the region within five feet of your house or other building. Zone 0 restrictions, which go into effect on January 1, 2023, will prohibit the use of combustible goods or woody landscaping in the area around your house or other building.

Zone 1

Within 30 feet of your house or building is the “Lean, Clean, and Green” Zone. Zone 1 activities are focused on the spacing and trimming of trees and shrubs, as well as the removal of dead vegetation.

Zone 2

Reduce the Fuel Zone 2 covers the region between 30 and 100 feet from your house or building on your land. In this zone, grass and weeds must be no higher than four inches, fallen foliage from trees and shrubs must be no deeper than three inches, and exposed wood piles (which are only permitted in this zone) must be surrounded by ten feet of bare mineral soil.

In Zone 2, there are additional tree spacing rules. Read Defensible Space and Wildfire Prevention to learn more.

How to Manage Vegetation to Create a Defensible Space Around Your Home

Preparing your yard for fire protection entails several tasks that you would typically do while caring for your property. However, executing them properly and as frequently as required becomes more important if you live in a wildfire-prone region or in a drought-stricken area.

Following these five tips will put you on the right track to establishing efficient wildfire defensive zones.

1) Get rid of any dead or dangerous trees.

There are many reasons why you should remove dead or hazardous trees from your property. One example is the risk of fire. Drought-stressed trees are more susceptible to disease, pests, and fire, all of which may lead the tree to collapse before you detect a problem.

A decaying tree is not always obvious to the untrained eye. One or more of the trees on your property may be in danger. Hiring an arborist with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification may detect troubled trees and remove them if it is too late to rescue them.

2) Prune and trim trees and shrubs

Regular tree cutting and pruning are required to maintain a wildfire-resistant environment. Tree branches should not overhang your roof and be at least 10 feet away from neighboring trees, chimneys, and stovepipe outlets.

Woody bushes may potentially be a fire threat if not trimmed on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to space them out and keep them away from decks and other combustible materials. To learn more, read Tree Pruning for Fire Prevention & Defensible Space.

3) Get Rid of Dead Vegetation

Consider any dead vegetation on your land as fuel for a wildfire. Never allow it gather anyplace on your property, and clean it from your yard on a regular basis. Dead leaves, twigs and branches, dried weeds and grass, and dead plants are all examples of this.

4) Keep the roof and gutters clean.

A wildfire’s embers might strike your roof. Keep your roof and gutters clean of debris to ensure they don’t locate any fuel.

5) Select Fire-Resistant Landscaping Plants

Plant fire-resistant trees and shrubs, especially within five feet of your house. It is critical to understand that fire-resistant does not imply fireproof, and that all plant is vulnerable to wildfires. Some plants are inherently more flammable and will burn quicker and with more intensity, thus fuelling and accelerating the development of a wildfire.

Avoid plants with woody, non-green interiors, more waxes, resins, or oils, thicker growth patterns, and plants that lose a lot of leaves or bark (kindling). Another factor to consider when planting plants near your house is how tall and quickly they grow, since this may provide an issue with spacing.

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