Defensible space and weed abatement: It’s everyone’s responsibility
By Battalion Chief Mike Webb
Cameron Park Fire Department
Now is the time to start thinking about and creating “Defensible Space” around your home or to begin the clearing and cleaning of the vacant lots under your ownership.
Just as your local fire agencies are gearing up and preparing for our fast approaching fire season, home and property owners should be doing the same. Some of the activities that occur at the fire department in preparation for fire season include training, maintenance and preparation. As a home or property owner you can also be proactive in your own preparation for fire season 2011.
First, you should become familiar with state and local laws. In California Public Resource Code 4291 (PRC 4291) requires that improved properties in the State Responsibility Areas are required to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around there homes or other improvements.
Additionally for residents of Cameron Park, there is also a local “Weed and Rubbish Abatement” ordinance 2010.3.17 that applies to vacant or unimproved parcels. The ordinance requires that unimproved parcels less than 2 acres be cleared of combustible vegetation and parcels greater than 2 acres install a fuel break free of combustible vegetation around the outer perimeter of the property.
Creating “Defensible Space” is a two-step process that requires the clearing of all flammable vegetation within 30 feet of your home. This is called the “Lean, Clean and Green Zone.”
The remaining vegetation in this zone is watered and landscaped, not native vegetation. Then the next 70 feet is focused on creating horizontal and vertical spacing between plants to keep an approaching fire on the ground and to prevent it from burning to or through the crowns or tops of trees. This approach essentially eliminates what is called “ladder fuels.” By keeping the fire on the ground it is much easier to control by fire personnel and less likely to spread to your home. The Weed Abatement standard uses the same approach as the second step for defensible space. Meaning that it is not the intent to remove all vegetation from the parcel; the goal is to eliminate the vertical spread of fire by eliminating the “ladder fuels” and providing spacing between the remaining plants — mowing weeds and grasses, eliminating native brush (manzanita and chemise) and limbing of the trees to 12 feet to 15 feet.
You should also consider how to prepare your home. First you should always keep your gutters and roof free of leaves and pine needles. This is the most common way for fire to spread from the vegetation to your home. Keep woodpiles 30 feet away from your house and ensure that your address is visible from the road and that your family has a prepared plan in case there is a need for evacuation.
The Cameron Park Fire Department and the Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento and Alpine Unit of Cal Fire are busy preparing to serve the community. Catastrophic wildfire is always a threat in our community and in California. Each of us has a role to play in minimizing the risks and damage from wildfire.