Defensible Space

Your first defense against wildfire is to create and maintain a defensible space around your home. This does not mean your landscape must be barren.

Defensible space is the area around a home or other structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire. Creating wildfire-defensible zones (738 KB PDF) also reduces the chance of a structure fire spreading to neighboring homes or the surrounding forest. Defensible space also provides room for firefighters to do their jobs when fighting wildfire.

Your house is more likely to withstand a wildfire if grasses, brush, trees and other common forest fuels are managed to reduce a fire’s intensity. The following are a few key steps to creating a defensible zone, but is not a comprehensive list.

  • Clean pine needles, leaves and other debris from roofs and gutter at least twice a year. This eliminates an ignition source for firebrands, especially during hot, dry weather.
  • Stack firewood away from your house. Locate firewood at least 30 feet uphill from your home. Do not stack firewood under the deck.
  • Remove unhealthy vegetation. Trees and shrubs that are stressed, diseased, dead or dying should be removed so that they do not become a fuel source for potential fires.
  • Create defensible space at a minimum of 100 feet around a home. Increase this distance if the structure is located on a slope.
  • Thin out continuous tree and brush (shrub) cover around structures. Remove flammable vegetation from within the initial 15 feet around structures.
  • Beyond the initial 15-30 feet, thin trees to achieve a 10-foot crown spacing. Occasionally, clumps of two or three trees are acceptable for a more natural appearance, if additional space surrounds them.
  • Mow grasses and weeds to a height of six inches or less for a distance of 30 feet from all structures.
  • Prune tree branches within the defensible space up to a height of 10 feet above ground.
  • Dispose of all slash and debris left from thinning by chipping, hauling away or piling for burning later. Always contact your county sheriff's office or local fire department first for information about burning slash piles. Contact your local CSFS district for information regarding chipping and other removal options.
  • Remove shrubs and small trees or other potential ladder fuels from beneath large trees. Left in place, these fuels can carry a ground fire into tree crowns.
  • Trim any branches extending over roofs, and remove branches within 10 feet of chimneys.
  • Stack firewood and woodpiles at least 30 feet from any structure. Make sure they are uphill or on the same level as structures, and clear away flammable vegetation from within 10 feet of these woodpiles.
  • Place liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) containers at least 30 feet from structures. Clear anything flammable, including vegetation from within 10 feet of all tanks.
Before and After Defensible Space Pictures
Homesite before defensible space. Homesite after creating a defensible space.