Understanding Defensible Space: Zone 0

The five feet around your house should stop embers in their tracks

It’s warming up in Butte County! We’re sure the first thing on your mind isn’t maintaining your defensible space, but this is really a prime time for thinking about it. It’s hot and dry out there, and if something were to trigger a wildfire, we all want to have the best chance at keeping it from spreading.

Traveling embers are a dangerous source of ignition during a fire, so let’s focus on the defensible space’s “ember-resistant” Zone 0, just outside your house. In this kind of weather, working in the shade of your house is a little easier than being out in the middle of your landscaping!

Where is Zone 0 of defensible space located?

Whatever the footprint of your house, Zone 0 is the first five feet around it, including the space under and around any attached decks and porches. Scientific study show Zone 0 is the most important of the defensible space zones. Keeping this area clear is designed to prevent airborne embers from igniting close to your house.

What does Zone 0 look like?

To borrow a phrase from Seinfeld, Zone 0 “is about nothing.” There should be absolutely nothing flammable within the first five feet of your home: no plantings, no grass, no wood, no cute woven grass mat for your shoes, no paper lanterns…nothing. The goal: if an ember falls in Zone 0, it shouldn’t find anything it can set on fire.

How to keep it clear:

  • Fill Zone 0 with hardscape: gravel, pavers, concrete, other decorative stone 
  • Remove all vegetation from the zone: dead and dying weeds, grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches, leaves, needles, cones, bark (keep the Seinfeld “nothing” rule in mind)
  • Firewood next to the house is a big no-no for Zone 0; move it to Zone 2
  • Replace attached flammable fencing, gates, and arbors with noncombustible versions
  • Keep combustible furniture, planters, and other items to a minimum on any attached decks and porches
  • Move trash and recycling bins away from Zone Zero
  • Consider moving boats, RVs, vehicles, and other combustible items outside this 5-foot perimeter

While you’re at it, check your roofs, gutters, decks, porches, stairways, and any other place debris can collect. There should also be no branches within 10 feet of a chimney or stovepipe outlet.

Once your Zone 0 is established, keeping it debris-free is key to maintaining your property’s ember-resistance capability. For a fun and family-friendly look at the importance of Zone 0 and all the defensible space zones, check out our videos featuring Max DSI, your friendly Defensible Space Inspector!

P.S. Hopefully, earlier this year when it was cooler, you spent some quality time with your gardening tools to clear Zone 1 and Zone 2. (If not, take advantage of the next cool/rainy day or early morning and get to it!)