Defensible space is the area surrounding a structure where plants and other landscape elements are maintained to decrease fire hazard, and allow firefighters to make a stand; addressing embers and spot fires before they grow.
You can think about defensible space in three zones. The exact area of these homes will depend on local guidelines, your slope, and your lot arrangement, but in general:
- Very Near Home: In the first five feet surrounding any structure, avoid anything flammable - this includes plantings, but also mulch, woodpiles, and furniture, decorative items, and stored items.
- Zone 1: 5-30 feet from the structure should be "lean and clean". Low groundcover such as mown grass, flowers, vegetables, mulch are acceptable. Plants should be watered as needed and routinely maintained to remove dead/dry material.
- Zone 2: 31-100+ feet out to the property line. Shrubs and trees should be well spaced and pruned to eliminate fuel ladders, where fire can climb from a ground fire to an ember producing crown fire.
- Seisel and Seaver (2008), Landscaping Tips to Help Defend Your Home from Wildfire, UC Master Gardener Program
- Skelly, Firescaping - Landscape Design for Wildfire Defensible/Survivable Space, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
- Warnert (2015), Five-foot zone free of plants can help rural homes’ fire survival, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Prepare for Wildfire, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
- Tahoe Living with Fire, Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team