What Is Defensible Space?

5 ways to create barriers between your home and approaching wildfire.

We talk about it a lot, but what is defensible space?

In a nutshell, defensible space is property laid out and landscaped in a way that makes it difficult for fire to reach a home. Here’s how to create defensible space on your property:

1. Make your property “fire unfriendly.”

Since fire likes to jump from one ignitable surface to the next, you need to make it hard for fire to stick the landing when it jumps toward your home. Fire safety experts have done the math and come up with a series of measurements you can use to lessen the likelihood of those jumps being successful.

2. Put nothing that burns within five feet of your house.

Look at the footprint of your house (if you have a deck added on, that counts as part of the footprint). There should be nothing inside a five-foot perimeter that burns. No plants, no grass, no woodpiles, no mulch, no lattice-work, trellises or wooden fencing, no trash cans or recycling bins, no outdoor furniture (this list could get really long, but we’re sure you get the idea).

3. Those five feet don’t have to be unattractive.

In case you’re concerned, close-in defensible space doesn’t have to look like five feet of concrete prison yard. There is plenty you can do to make it attractive. For instance, there are many decorative rock and hardscape options that create a very pleasing aesthetic.

4. Create beautiful but fire-unfriendly landscaping.

Beyond those first five feet, defensible space becomes about the proper spacing of shrubs, plantings, and trees. Recommendations vary a bit depending on the size of your lot but here are some basics:

  • Grow lawn grasses no higher than 4 inches.
  • Keep tree branches 6 feet from the ground or higher.
  • Tops of shrubs should be well below your lowest tree branches.
  • Shrub bottoms should sit above the top of your grass.
  • Shrubs and tree trunks should never touch.
  • Clean up all lawn and tree debris.
  • Store firewood on bare soil, with 10 feet of clearance all around.
5. Find out what’s best for your property.

To get more detailed information, such as exactly how much space to put between trees and shrubs or how to create defensible space on larger properties, visit CAL FIRE’s Defensible Space Page. To be absolutely sure you’re doing everything you can to create the best defensible space for your property, request a free Defensible Space Inspection in which a fire safety expert will evaluate your home and property to determine the best defensible space plan for you to follow.