Create Defensible Space for Fire Crews
In the event of a wildfire in Sonoma County you’ll want your home defended by Fire Crews. The best way to ensure your home is protected is to provide the Firefighters with a safe access road and a property that is defensible. Maintaining clearance that is high enough and wide enough for firetrucks will mean a better chance that the firefighters will approach your home. Raising trees to 14 feet in height and shaping trees and shrubs back to edge of road or beyond is recommended. Sonoma County’s “Fire Safe Standards” for minimum road standards indicates existing private roads should be a minimum of twelve feet in width with an additional foot of vegetation removed on each side.
Once the fire crew arrives at your home, they will make a quick assessment of whether they have a chance to defend your property. If trees are over hanging the roof and combustible vegetation or dead trees are close to the structure, they may choose to move onto another property that they have a better chance of saving. Their safety is also at risk if your home has a large fuel load surrounding it.
Some tips to create a defensible space include:
- Shape trees and shrubs a minimum of eight feet from your home and ten feet from the chimney if your burn firewood.
- Make sure there are not tall grass or weeds within at least 100 feet of your home.
- If you are weed wacking use a string trimmer not a metal blade which can easily start a fire. Do your work in the morning preferably on a foggy day. Weed wacking on a hot dry afternoon is the worst time to mow or weed wack for fire risk.
- Clear any dead or downed trees or branches from your property which are considered “ladder fuels”. Ladder fuels allow a low grass fire to climb up the debris into the tree canopies.
- Raise trees a minimum of six feet. I recommend eight to ten feet for bay and fir trees because they are more flammable than native oaks.
- Consider reducing fuels by removing smaller suppressed or unhealthy trees. Bay and Fir trees which are more flammable are good choices to remove while leaving oaks intact. Larger oak trees with thick bark and redwoods are also more likely to survive a fire. Trees with previous fire damage and cavities at the base may also be evaluated for removal. A tree with a hollow area near the ground allows the fire to move into the trunk like a chimney. A tree trunk with a cavity should also be inspected for structural integrity by a Certified Arborist.
- Use rock or gravel to landscape within five feet of your home instead of bark or arbor mulch.
- Remove any flammable plants or shrubs near your structure including junipers and rosemary. For a complete list of “pyrophytic” (flammable) plants do an internet search of “flammable plants of Sonoma , Marin and Napa Counties”. If you have plants near your home keeping them trimmed and irrigated is best. For list of plants that are low pyrophytic check out “Fire Wise Plant Material for Sonoma County” on the internet.
- Be sure to remove any leaf litter from your roof and keep gutters clear of debris. A windblown ember falling onto a roof covered in leaves is a good way to start a fire.
- Install fire rated screens in eaves and roof vents to prevent embers from entering the attic.
Finally, contact one of our Certified Arborists to perform a free inspection of your property for fire risk and provide a detailed proposal to create a defensible space surrounding your home.