Creating a Plan for Your Defensible Space

Before you create a plan for your defensible space, let’s do a brief review of exactly what defensible space is. 

The defensible space concept

Defensible space refers to portions of your property laid out and landscaped to discourage fire from progressing toward your home. It includes everything from within 5 feet of empty, non-combustible space at the perimeter of your house, to bushes, trees, and shrubs placed at distances experts have determined as optimal for discouraging the advancement of embers and flames.

Assessing your defensible space needs

Take a walk around your property, asking yourself these questions:

  • How do I clear a full five feet around the entire perimeter of my house? (If you have a deck, consider it part of your home’s footprint.)
  • Do I have any tree branches overhanging my roof?
  • Are there any tree branches touching the tops of shrubs?
  • Does my lawn grass touch the bottoms of my shrubs?

Those are just a few of the questions to use when assessing your property. To go more in-depth, we recommended using the CAL FIRE online self-assessment.

Create a schedule to create your defensible space

After assessing your property’s needs, break those down into individual jobs, starting with your 5-foot perimeter and working your way outward. While you’re planning outward, keep in mind that weather at various times of year may be the deciding factor in determining the order in which your projects are completed. The best time of year to create your defensible space is in the winter and spring, before it gets too hot.

Estimate your labor needs

Look at the schedule of jobs you’ve created and determine if there are any you can do as DIY projects. Then estimate the cost and how much time you need to achieve each DIY phase of your defensible space plan. When you know what you can do on your own, start gathering estimates on the jobs you’ll need to outsource and work them into your budget and outward-direction plan.

One more thing…

Defensible space isn’t like digging a moat around a castle and forgetting about it. In a wildfire risk area like Butte County, defensible space requires regular maintenance: clearing of debris, trimming of shrubs, pruning of trees, etc. So along with your schedule of planned jobs, be sure to make a plan for regular upkeep of your defensible space.