What Exactly is Defensible Space?
When it comes to protecting your home from a wildfire, there are multiple strategies you can use. In addition to hardening your home by adding on elements like sprinklers and gutter covers, one of the most important changes homeowners can make is to establish defensible space. The first 30 feet around the home is the first line of fire protection and defense for your home, and it may be enough to prevent wildfires from reaching your home to begin with.
What Is Defensible Space?
Defensible space refers to a buffer that you create between your home and the surrounding grass, shrubs, trees, and other vegetation. The space helps to slow or stop a fire’s spread, potentially preventing your home from catching on fire. When paired with home hardening techniques, it’s an effective way to keep your home standing.
Creating defensible space serves two purposes. The first purpose is to help stop a fire from advancing to your home. But the defensible space zone also serves as an important safe zone from which firefighters can stand and fight the fire.
Defensible space consists of multiple zones, and for the maximum effectiveness, you’ll need to address all of the zones.
Zone 0 refers to the five feet surrounding your home and other structures like sheds and decks. This zone is called an immediate zone, and it’s designed to be free of any flammable materials that an ember could ignite.
To create this zone, you’ll need to remove flammable materials like leaves and grass. Avoid using bark or mulch, and instead use landscaping materials like concrete and gravel. If you have fencing or gates, then use noncombustible materials like metal instead of wood.
The next zone, Zone 1, is called the intermediate zone. It’s located in the area that’s 5 to 30 feet away from your house’s exterior, decks, and other structures. The goal in designing this zone is to remove flammable plants and create space between elements to help prevent fire spread.
To address Zone 1, remove fire-hazardous plants and replace them with fire-resistant plants. Remove dead, flammable vegetation and tree branches, and ensure that firewood and wood piles are stored in an enclosure that’s resistant to fire. Focus on keeping plants well-watered.
Zone 2 is called the extended zone and consists of the area measuring 30 to 100 feet out from your house. Your goal for this zone is to reduce the amount of fuel present.
You can accomplish this in many ways. Mow grass so that it’s no higher than four inches tall. Focus on positioning shrubs and trees so there is vertical spacing and horizontal spacing between them, which can help to prevent the spread of wildfire. Remove combustible materials like dead plants, pine needles, and fallen branches, too.
If you have any outbuildings in this zone or in Zone 1, make sure that there is no flammable vegetation within that initial 10-foot zone that abuts the buildings.
The Access Zone refers to the area that is 0 to at least 10 feet vertically from the edge of your driveway. The zone also includes 14 feet of overhead space. It’s essential to maintain this zone, since it is necessary for evacuation.
Clear away vegetation within the zone, and ensure that at least 12 feet of pavement is free of obstructions, allowing for vehicle accessibility. Make sure that you clearly post your address numbers so they’re visible from the road, which can help emergency services and the fire department to reach you.
Establishing Your Defensible Space
Under California law, you’re required to establish 100 feet of defensible space, which consists of Zones 1 and 2. The third zone is also required by law as of 2020. To determine where your defensible space needs to be, measure from your home out by 100 feet or to your property line.
Establishing defensible space isn’t just required by law, but it can increase your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. If you’re just getting started or want to improve your defensible space, Ember Wildfire Defense Solutions’ Home-Hardening Package can help.
For vegetation, fence lines, and decks that homeowners cannot or would not like to remove, an eco-friendly, long-lasting fire retardant called Phos-Chek Fortify is available to apply for Ember Defense customers.
When applied, Phos-Chek Fortify can render materials non-flammable without leaving behind residue or harming plants, animals, or residents. Created by Stanford University researchers, Phos-Chek Fortify is a safe, long-lasting solution to protecting flammable materials.
Our Home-Hardening Package includes:
- An evaluation of your home’s defensible space to help identify improvements you can make including Phos-Chek Fortify application
- The installation of wildfire defense products like Vulcan Vents, Valor Gutter Guards, and exterior roof sprinklers to help protect your home
- A home insurance assessment to make sure you have appropriate coverage