Defensible Space

Sonora, California



Wednesday, April 8, 2015 ?D1

Property clearance around homes a requirement

Union Democrat staff With California entering its fourth year of drought, fire clearance around homes is more critical than ever. ?Now is the time,? said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Barry Rudolph. ?Defensible space should be cleared by beginning of summer.? Increased fire danger due to current drought conditions throughout California have prompted Cal Fire to begin hiring additional staff April 13 and begin inspecting properties earlier than normal. Landowners are required by law to prepare a defensible-space clearance on their property. Cal Fire officials report this year they will increase their inspection activity this spring and summer. Defensible space is a clear area around structures to protect them from wildfires. California law requires property owners in state-responsibility firefighting areas ? 31 million total acres, including most of Calaveras and Tuolumne counties ? to clear 100 feet of defensible space around their structures. The first 30 feet surrounding a structure must be clear of dead or dry plants, grass, weeds, leaves and pine needles. Isolated trees and shrubs are allowed if they are trimmed regularly, but trees should not encroach within 10 feet of chimneys. The remaining 70 feet is known as the ?reduced fuel zone,? which allows more trees and shrubs as long as they are pruned and spaced apart. Spacing requirements depend on the slope of the land and amount and types of plants. Low-hanging branches and leaves should be removed to prevent fire from climbing trees, and grass should be mowed to a maximum height of 4 inches. Rudolph said to start work early in the morning and complete it by 10 a.m. when humidity levels are higher. A lawnmower is for lawns. Never use it to clear fields, as the blades can strike rocks, and the resulting sparks can cause fires, he added. People whose properties do not pass inspection will be given time to comply with guidelines. If they do not correct the problems, they will be fined up to $400 per violation. Vacation homes and part-time residences are also subject to the regulations, even if the owner does not live there full time. Property owners can hire professionals to clear and dispose of the brush or do it themselves. The law does not apply to incorporated cities like Sonora and Angels Camp, but city residents are urged to create clearings as well. The Sonora City Fire Department in early May will kick off a defensible space awareness program. The department also will be doing inspections during that time, said Sonora Fire Department spokesman Grant Miller. Conditions are as dry, if not drier, this year than last, Rudolph said. Officials are already seeing escaped debris burns, he added. The memory of the 402-square-mile Rim Fire in 2013 should remind foothill residents about the importance of clearing defensible space around their properties and homes, fire officials said. For more information on the law and preparing for wildfires, go online to or or


a b Lower tree limbs removed to reduce "fire ladder" 1 Trees trimmed at least 10? from chimney Trees spaced to reduce fire spread Space plants and shrubs to prevent fire from spreading 30 ft. 2


30 ft. 1 2 1 30? Reduced Fuel Zone 70 ft. Reduced Fuel Zone 70 ft. Contact your local CAL FIRE office, fire department, or Fire Safe Council for tips and assistance. 2 70? (or to property line)

Why 100 Feet ?

Following these simple steps can dramatically increase the chance of your home surviving a wildfire! A Defensible Space of 100 feet around your home is required by law. 1 The goal is to protect your home while providing a safe area for firefighters. 1 2 ?Lean, Clean and Green Zone.? ? Clearing an area of 30 feet immediately surrounding your home is critical. This area requires the greatest reduction in flammable vegetation. ?Reduced Fuel Zone.? ? The fuel reduction zone in the remaining 70 feet (or to property line) will depend on the steepness of your property and the vegetation. Spacing between plants improves the chance of stopping a wildfire before it destroys your home. You have two options in this area: a Create horizontal and vertical spacing between plants. The amount of space will depend on how steep the slope is and the size of the plants. b Large trees do not have to be cut and removed as long as all of the plants beneath them are removed. This eliminates a vertical ?fire ladder.? When clearing vegetation, use care when operating equipment such as lawnmowers. One small spark may start a fire; a string trimmer is much safer. Remove all build ? up of needles and leaves from your roof and gutters. Keep tree limbs trimmed at least 10 feet from any chimneys and remove dead limbs that hang over your home or garage. The law also requires a screen over your chimney outlet of not more than ½ inch mesh. 1. These regulations affect most of the grass, brush, and timber-covered private lands in the State. Some fire departmentjurisdictions may have additional requirements. Some activities may require permits for tree removal. Also, some activities may require special procedures for, 1) threatened and endangered species, 2) avoiding erosion, and 3) protection of water quality. Check with local officials if in doubt. Current regulations allow an insurance company to require additional clearance. The area to be treated does not extend beyond your property. The State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has approved Guidelines to assist you in complying with the new law. Contact your local CAL FIRE office for more details. July 2007


1 Design/Construction (For new Wildland Urban Interface Construction or Remodels) q Use ignition resistant construction (effective January 1, 2008) for roofs/roof assemblies, gutters, vents, desks, exterior walls, exterior windows. q Enclose the underside of eaves, balconies and above ground decks with fire resistant materials q Show your 100 feet Defensible Space on plot plan q Build your home away from ridge tops, canyons and areas between high points of a ridge q Consider installing residential sprinklers q Make sure that electric service lines, fuse boxes and circuit breaker panels are installed and maintained per code q Contact qualified individuals to perform electrical maintenance and repairs 2 Access q Make sure that your street name sign is visibly posted at each street intersection q Post your house address so it is easily visible from the street, especially at night q Address numbers should be at least 3 inches tall and on a contrasting background q Identify at least two exit routes from your neighborhood q Clear flammable vegetation at least 10 feet from roads and five feet from driveways q Cut back overhanging tree branches above access roads q Construct roads that allow two-way traffic q Make sure dead-end roads, and long drive ways have turn-around areas wide enough for emergency vehicles q Design bridges to carry heavy emergency vehicles q Post clear road signs to show traffic restrictions such as dead-end roads, and weight and height limitations 3 Roof q Install a fire resistant roof. Contact your local fire department for current roofing requirements q Remove dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters q Remove dead branches overhanging your roof and keep branches 10 feet from your chimney q Cover your chimney outlet and stovepipe with a nonflammable screen of 1/2 inch or smaller mesh March 2009 4 Landscape q Create a Defensible Space of 100 feet around your home. It is required by law q Create a ?LEAN, CLEAN and GREEN ZONE? by removing all flammable vegetation within 30 feet immediately surrounding your home q Then create a ?REDUCED FUEL ZONE? in the remaining 70 feet or to your property line You have two options in this area: A. Create horizontal and vertical spacing between plants. The amount of space will depend on how steep your property is and the size of your plants. B. Large trees do not have to be removed as long as all of the plants beneath them are removed. q Remove lower tree branches at least six feet from the ground q Landscape with fire resistant plants q Maintain all plants with regular water, and keep dead braches, leaves and needles removed. q When clearing vegetation, use care when operating equipment such as lawnmowers. One small spark may start a fire; a string trimmer is much safer 5 Yard q Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures and remove vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles q Above ground Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LP-gas) containers (500 or less water gallons) shall be located a minimum of 10 feet with respect to buildings, public ways, and lot lines of adjoining property that can be built upon. - CFC 3804.3 q Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves and other debris from your yard q Contact your local fire department to see if debris burning is allowed in your area; if so, obtain a burning permit and follow all local air quality restrictions 6 Emergency Water Supply q Maintain an emergency water supply that meets fire department standards through one of the following: ? a community water/hydrant system ? a cooperative emergency storage tank with neighbors ? a minimum storage supply of 2,500 gallon on your property (like a pond or pool) q Clearly mark all emergency water sources q Create easy firefighter access to your closest emergency water source q If your water comes from a well, consider an emergency generator to operate the pump during a power failure

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Homeowners Checklist

How To Make Your Home Fire Safe

2 Oak Street dar Ln

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450 3 450 For more information contact your local CAL FIRE office, fire department or Fire Safe Council for tips and assistance. Get Your Community Involved or

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