Wildfire Defensible Space 101: Protect Your Home

Fire-Resistant Building Materials & Home Hardening Techniques
October 28, 2020
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Wildfire Defensible Space 101: Protect Your Home

There might not be much you can do to prevent wildfires, but you can take proactive steps to protect your home from damage during wildfire season. Creating defensible space around your property provides a buffer between your home and surrounding vegetation. This can significantly reduce the chance that your home ignites due to drifting embers and help slow the spread of approaching fires. Here’s everything you need to know about how to create wildfire defensible space.

Protect your home from wildfire by installing a Frontline Wildfire Defense exterior sprinkler system. For more information, contact us today for a free consultation.

What is Wildfire Defensible Space?

Wildfire defensible space is a critical aspect of protecting your home and increasing its chances of surviving a fire. Essentially, this means creating an area around your home that is free from highly combustible vegetation and materials.

Per California law, homes and structures are required to have 100 feet of defensible space. This law was established in 2005 to protect homes from wildfires and to provide a safe area for firefighters when trying to put out wildfires.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to destroy your home’s beautiful landscape. It just means you need to practice mindful landscaping and hardscaping to protect your home from wildfires.

Understanding Wildfire Dangers

When creating a defensible space, it’s important to keep in mind that a direct flame isn’t the only thing that can ignite your home. Radiant heat and drifting embers can ignite your home, surrounding property, or the landscape around your property.

Home Ignition Zone Maintenance

The home ignition zone system was developed in the late 1990s as a guide to help homeowners create an effective defensible space around their homes. These guidelines aim to protect homes not only from wildfires themselves but also against ignition due to radiant heat and burning embers.

The home ignition zone is divided into three distinct zones, which together make up the 100 feet of defensible space required by California law:

Zone 1 (0-5 Feet)

The first zone extends 0’ to 5’ from the furthest exterior surface of your home. This is the area immediately surrounding your house and should be designated as a non-combustible area. Anything that is vulnerable to ignition via flying embers should be removed from this zone.

You can create defensible space in Zone 1 by:

  • Cleaning roofs and gutters, removing all debris and dead leaves.
  • Repairing your roof as needed to prevent embers from entering your home.
  • Replacing combustible outdoor furniture with furniture made from fire-resistant materials.
  • Removing all dead vegetation from the surrounding landscape.
  • Trimming tree limbs that extend into this area.

Use fire resistant materials and other home hardening techniques to protect the area immediately surrounding your home from wildfire damage.

Zone 2 (5-20 Feet)

Zone 2 is the area that extends 5’ to 30’ from your home, also referred to as the intermediate zone. Responsible landscaping and hardscaping are imperative to maintaining an effective intermediate zone.

You can create defensible space in Zone 2 by:

  • Removing dead grass, foliage, and other vegetation.
  • Mowing grass to a maximum height of 4 inches.
  • Spacing trees at least 8 feet apart from each other.
  • Clearing vegetation around outdoor structures.
  • Remove vegetation under trees to prevent surface fires from climbing.
  • Keep driveways and pathways clear of weeds, dead leaves, and other debris.

Practicing proper landscaping techniques in this area can significantly slow the spread of approaching wildfires, giving you and your family more time to evacuate and firefighters more time to put out the fire.

Zone 3 (30-100 Feet)

This last zone extends either to your property line or 30’ to 100’ from your home. Like Zone 2, the emphasis here should be on landscaping as a means of obstructing a fire’s path and preventing it from reaching your home.

You can create defensible space in Zone 3 by:

  • Disposing of debris and trash.
  • Removing smaller plants that grow between trees.
  • Creating horizontal spacing between trees and other plants.
  • Trim trees to create vertical spacing between tree limbs and shrubs.

Taking the steps to maintain these wildfire defense zones is one of the best ways homeowners in California can protect their property and family from wildfires.

Identifying Fire Resistant & Flammable Vegetation

Common fire resistant and flammable vegetation can vary by your climate and location. To help as you plan your defensible space, explore this comprehensive guide on identifying fire-hazardous plants in California from Fire Same Marin: Fire-Hazardous Plants.

Additional Tips for Creating Wildfire Defensible Space

Creating wildfire defensible space involves mindful landscaping, but this isn’t the only way to improve your home’s fire resistance. Keep these additional tips in mind to help create a safer environment for you and your family.

Use Fire Resistant Building Materials

Fire resistant building materials help slow the speed at which the flames spread if your home does ignite. Using fire resistant materials can make the difference that gives you enough time to evacuate in case of emergency.

Fire resistant building materials include:

  • Concrete
  • Fire-rated glass
  • Type X drywall
  • Dual-pane windows
  • Treated fibers
  • And more

In addition to creating defensible space, using fire resistant materials when applicable will drastically increase your home’s natural fire resistance. In fact, according to a study by CoreLogic, combining fire resistant materials with an exterior sprinkler system, defensible space, and community awareness can reduce average annual loss by 96%! Learn More.

Work with Your Neighbors

California law requires 100 feet of defensible space around homes and structures. Of course, not every property has that much space between structures. In these cases, you are required to create a defensible space reaching all the way out to your property line.

If there is less than 100 feet of space between you and your neighbors’ homes, it’s important to work with them to create a collaborative defensible zone. Since their homes overlap with your property’s home ignition zone, poor fire safety practices on their part can threaten you and your home—and vice versa.

Install an Exterior Sprinkler System

Exterior sprinkler systems proactively hydrate your home’s exterior and landscape to prevent ignition. Proactive hydration before immediate threat protects your property from flying embers, the cause of 90% of homes destroyed by wildfire. Combined with proper home ignition zone maintenance, a home defense sprinkler system will significantly reduce the chances that a wildfire or other heat source ignites your property.

The Frontline Wildfire Defense exterior sprinkler system can protect your home from wildfire with:

  • Remote activation for 24/7 protection from anywhere
  • Built-in battery backup and satellite communication
  • Environmentally friendly, biodegradable Class A foam
  • Municipal, well, pool, and emergency water tank supply options
  • Wildfire tracking and remote system activation using the Frontline app

For more information on how Frontline Wildfire Defense can help safeguard your home, contact us today for a free consultation.

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