DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION
CAL FIRE Mendocino Unit personnel have begun conducting Defensible Space inspections within the State Responsibility Areas (SRA) of Mendocino County. These inspections are focusing on education and ensuring landowners have created and are maintaining defensible space around their homes and structures. As drought conditions continue in California, this Defensible Space is critical for the protection of homes and the safety of citizens and firefighters during a wildfire.
California Public Resources Code §4291 requires homeowners in SRA to maintain 100 feet of Defensible Space around structures. The 100 feet of Defensible Space is divided into two zones:
The first zone is for the first 30 feet from the home/structure. This zone should be completely clear of all dead and flammable vegetation, including woodpiles, flammable brush, dead plants, weeds and dead grass.
The second zone is the following 70 feet from the first zone. The primary goal within this zone is to eliminate the horizontal and vertical fuel continuity which will decrease the ability of a fire to spread. This can be accomplished by pruning trees, removing dead vegetative matter, cutting grass, removing and/or spacing out trees and brush. Woodpiles can be kept within this zone.
Compliance with this law will aid in the prevention or minimization of large and damaging wildland fires, decrease the risk of property loss, and provide increased citizen and firefighter safety. One of the essential tools utilized to accomplish this goal is the fire prevention inspection. These inspections will help homeowners understand the requirements and methods to eliminate or reduce fire hazards and risks near homes in the SRA.
CAL FIRE Defensible Space inspectors will make the majority of their inspections in the months leading up to fire season in order to allow landowners time and flexibility to prepare their property for the upcoming fire season. CAL FIRE inspectors will attempt to inspect all the homes they have access to (e.g., no locked gates, can be viewed from a public place/roadway, or property that can be accessed by any private citizen, mailperson, delivery person, etc.) within a given target area prior to moving onto another area. The inspectors will be conducting their inspections during reasonable daylight hours, knocking on the door of the residence and being professionally dressed so that CAL FIRE staff can easily be identified as fire department personnel. Ideally, CAL FIRE would meet all landowners on-site so that questions can be answered and hazardous conditions addressed. If the Defensible Space inspectors are not able to meet face to face with the landowners, a “Notice of Fire Hazard Inspection” form will be left at the property. The “Notice of Fire Hazard Inspection” form will give a detailed description of what was inspected and if any corrections are needed to improve the property for fire survival. A phone number will be provided to the landowner to use in the event they have questions concerning the inspection or what/why hazards need to be reduced.
Defensible Space inspections are supported by the SRA Fire Prevention Fee, which is an annual fee assessed to rural residents for fire prevention activities in the SRA. The Fire Prevention Fee resulted from a law signed by Governor Brown in 2011 which imposed a fee to owners of habitable structures in the SRA.
Here are some tips that can help homeowners increase their properties’ fire resistance and increase safety for residents and firefighters:
- Maintain 100 feet of Defensible Space around all structures.
- Clear all needles and leaves from roofs, eaves and rain gutters.
- Trim branches six feet from the ground.
- Use trimming, mowing and power equipment before 10 a.m.
- Landscape with fire resistant and drought tolerant plants that require little water.
- Remove branches away from roofs and 10 feet from the chimney.
- Keep wood piles and flammable materials at least 30 feet from the home.
- Use fire ignition resistant building material.
For more information on preparing for wildfires and defensible space visit: www.ReadyForWildfire.org.