CAL Fire

With all of the fires currently burning around the State of California and intensified by the drought, it is essential to look at how you can protect your home from fire hazard. “Firescaping” is a term that you will hear more frequently, which refers to landscape design strategies that reduce house and property vulnerability to wildfire. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). It is so easy to get behind on yardwork, but it is important to regularly look at the space around your house and see how you can improve fire safety. This is especially critical for homes on hillside slopes or within Wildlife Urban Interfaces or WUIs. To find out if your residence falls within a WUI, check with your local fire district.

“Defensible Space” is the minimum required space (at least 100 feet wide in State Responsibility Areas in California) around your home where plants need to be maintained to decrease the risk of fire hazard. The Defensible Space area is made up of multiple zones per jurisdiction: The ten (10) foot zone around your residence is a Critical Zone for fire safety. Trees and other woody pyrophitic plants should not be planted in this zone. Please refer to FireSafe Marin for a list of fire prone plants. Plant lists for more fire resistant plants are also available at FireSafe Marin. Additional fuel zones include: The 11-30’ Defensible Space Zone, and the 31-100’ Defensible Space Zone.


University of CA Cooperative Extension

The vegetation in this area needs to be well maintained and should include plant varieties that do not ignite easily. Trees and shrubs may be acceptable, as long as they do not provide a continuous path of fuel for a fire to climb and must also be well spaced out. Dried leaves and dead plants add fuel to the potential fires and should be removed, especially in the critical zone.

Critical Zone: 0-10’ Around Home

The zone 0-10’ around the buildings is either hardscape, or irrigated and landscaped with plant material that is low growing and nonflammable, as well as deer resistant. No trees are proposed in this zone.

  • Remove all flammable material from your rain gutters, roof, and deck & patio areas
  • Use fire-resistant vegetation or landscape rocks
  • Move woodpiles away from your home
  • Inspect your chimney annually, and install a spark arrester with ¼ inch or smaller mesh screen
  • If you have a propane tank, remove flammable materials within 10 feet of it

The 11-30’ Defensible Space Zone

The zone 11-30’ around the buildings needs to be irrigated and planted with a variety of low and medium growing groundcovers and herbaceous shrubs that are fire-resistant, and deer resistant. Individual plants or shrub masses can create “shrub islands” with adequate horizontal spacing. Some clusters of trees may be proposed for screening. All landscaping will be irrigated.

  • Remove all flammable vegetation, weeds, and any dead or dying plants
  • Remove pine needles, dried leaves, and debris from your yard, roof, and gutters
  • Remove all trees/branches around chimney
  • Re-locate all wood piles into zone 2
  • Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows
  • Create spacing between any objects that could light one another on fire (decks, swingsets, furniture, etc)

The 31-100’ Defensible Space Zone

  • Create spacing between any objects that could light one another on fire (decks, swingsets, furniture, etc)
  • Cut/Mow grass to a maximum height of four (4) inches, two (2) inches is preferred
  • Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees
  • Create vertical spacing between grasses, shrubs, and trees by pruning and limbing up
  • Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches





Always double check with local laws and ordinances, and don’t ever hesitate to ask questions! Firma Design Group has developed Vegetation Management Plans for many clients in fire prone areas and in Wildlife Urban Interfaces or WUIs. Our landscape plans, plant lists, and irrigation plans meet all local regulations and provide adequate fire defensible space for your property.