Wildfire Preparedness

Wildfire will always be a part of the California landscape. Landowners and residents must consider how their home, gardens, and community play a role in achieving greater wildfire resilience. Understanding how fires can approach a building is the first step in identifying your risks and prioritizing your actions.

How do homes burn?

The way a fire can approach a house depends on many factors, but in general we can identify three main types of exposures: flame contact, embers, and radiant heat. While distinguishing these mechanisms can help us prioritize our actions, keep in mind that they all happen at the same time, and they are all equally important.

Direct Flame Contact

Fires require fuel to spread, therefore vegetation, outdoor furniture, fences, or sheds in close proximity can create a direct path to a house. Combustible materials can be separated horizontally and vertically to create a defensible space and prevent flames from reaching the house.


Embers can be transported by wind miles away from the fire front. They can easily find a way into a building from vents or cracked windows and start a fire. Embers can also land on roofs or walls, collecting near the building and igniting dry grass, mulch, or other flammable materials. To protect a building from embers, retrofit or upgrade house components such as vents, and remove combustible materials around buildings.

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating is electromagnetic energy emitted by a fire. We feel this type of heat when we sit in front of a bonfire. If a neighboring house is burning, the radiant heat can ignite fences, vegetation, or shatter windows. Increasing the separation between structures (e.g. between the shed and house), or installing wind shutters can reduce the vulnerability to radiant heat exposure.


Where can you start?

First, understand the fire risk to your home and your community. Use the Fire Hazard Severity Zones map to assess the fire risk in your community. Regardless of the risk shown on the map, it is important to consider potential exposures to your property.

A combination of home hardening and defensible space strategies can help homes survive wildfires. If you are building a new home or maintaining an older one, simple actions to harden structural elements can increase your home's chances of surviving wildfires. Defensible space does more than just preventing fire from reaching your home and giving you safe evacuation routes. It also provides fire professionals a safe or "defendable" area to stage their personnel and equipment.

Assess your situation and identify potential risks and solutions by using the resources below. For additional support and guidance, check local programs from fire departments, resource conservation districts, fire safe councils, or community based organizations. Many of these entities offer free or low-cost inspections and resources to reduce the vulnerability of your home.