Wildfire is an unwelcome visitor, so make it feel like one by not feeding it.

Fact of life: nature burns.

Wildfires happen, traveling like flame along a fuse, looking for something to ignite. Defensible space provides you and firefighters with a way to cut that fuse short.

Give it room to breathe.

Foliage was here first, so we need to play by nature’s rules. Sad experience has shown there needs to be space between us and our beloved greenery.

Landscape for safety.

There are simple ways of laying out your space and landscaping to make your property less fire-friendly by understanding a few simple laws of nature.

Before you start!

Avoid kicking up and spreading flammable debris.

  • Don’t work on creating your defensible space when conditions are ripe for fire.
  • Create your defensible space during cooler, less fire-prone months.
  • Do your mowing and other defensible space maintenance before 10 a.m.

Think in terms of zones when creating defensible space.

Butte County law requires 100 feet of defensible space around buildings on your property.

Zone “Zero”

The first five feet outside your home or any structure attached to it.

If it can burn, keep it out of Zone Zero.

The first five feet around any structure are the most important when it comes to defending against wildfire:

  • Fill this space with rock, stone pavers, cement, bare earth, gravel, or sand.
  • Remove plants and shrubs near windows and under eaves.
  • Remove leaves and needles from roof and rain gutters.
  • Switch flammable/combustible fencing, gates, arbors, or trellises for fire-safe materials.
  • Keep Zone Zero clear of weeds; be consistent about removing yard debris.
  • Limit plants on the edges of Zone Zero to low-growing, high-moisture, nonwoody plants.
  • Make sure edge plants are trimmed and well-watered.
  • Move garbage and recycling containers outside Zone Zero.
  • Avoid letting boats, RVs, or other vehicles extend into Zone Zero.
  • Do not store firewood in Zone Zero.
  • Keep tree canopy and branches at least 10 feet from the edge of any building.

Zone One

Extends from the outer edge of Zone Zero out 30 feet

Don’t give wildfire room to breathe freely.

  • Remove branches that hang over your roof.
  • Cut back any branches within 10 feet of chimneys or the edge of buildings.
  • Keep weeds and grass to 4” or less and consistently remove dead plant matter
  • Consistently remove weeds, dead plants, and dried grass.
  • Move woodpiles 10 feet or more away from your home or cover them in a fire-resistant material
  • Don’t let leaves and pine needles collect on the ground.
  • Move all clippings and cutting out to Zone Two
  • Create space between trees/shrubs and things that catch fire (patio furniture, swing sets, etc.).
  • Limit trees and shrubs to small groupings; avoid creating lines of combustible vegetation.
  • Keep grasses and weeds to a maximum height of 4 inches.
  • Place shrubs and trees a safe distance apart.
  • Put space between the top of shrubs and your lowest tree branches.
  • Make space between the bottom of shrubs and the surface of your grass.
  • Keep tree branches no closer than 6 feet from the ground or 1/3 of overall height.
  • Give outbuildings and liquid propane at least 10 feet of clearance on bare ground.
  • Be sure you can read your house number from the street! The numbers should be at least 4” tall.
  • Remove or clear the space around logs or stumps embedded in the soil

Zone Two

30 to 100 feet

Keep any green waste, dead or dying trees and any other combustible material from extending into your 100 feet of defensible space.

Firewood Storage

It has fire in the name, so be especially careful. During the fire season, store firewood as far from your home as possible, on bare soil, with a minimum clearance of 10 feet in all directions.

Travel Ways

Make it easy for yourself and emergency vehicles to get in and out.

  • Create a minimum 10-foot buffer on both sides entrance roads and driveways.
  • Keep flammable vegetation down to 4 inches or less.
  • Trim all overhanging tree branches to a minimum height of 14 feet.
  • Remove all dead vegetation within 10 feet of the roadside.
  • Create horizontal and vertical spacing in accordance with the Fuel Separation or Continuous Tree Canopy guidelines.

Undeveloped Properties

If you live or own property in rural or urban areas of unincorporated Butte County, the following information applies:

  • You must maintain 100 feet of defensible space between your lot and any structure on a neighbor’s lot
  • A fire break may be required 30 feet wide around the entirety of your property when an accumulation of vegetation creates a significant fire hazard.
  • Create defensible space next to any edge of travel way for a horizontal distance of 10 feet and a vertical distance of 14 feet using fuel separation guidelines.

If you own property in urban areas of unincorporated Butte County [Chico, Paradise, Oroville, Biggs, and some neighborhoods in Palermo], the following additional information also applies:

  • Undeveloped property (vacant lot):
    • Your lot is 1.25 acres or more:
      • You must maintain 100 feet of defensible space between your lot and any structure on a neighbor’s lot
      • You must have a fire break of 30 feet wide around the entirety of your property
    • Your lot is 1.25 acres or less:
      • You must maintain defensible space within the entirety of your property

If you have any questions about the requirements for your property, send us an email.

Defensible Space Is Required by Law

This page provides essentials on defensible space, but wildfire prevention is such a priority in our area that Butte County has established some must-comply requirements for all property owners. Download Butte County Defensible Space Requirements here.

  • Seasonal Defensible Space Inspections
    Butte County fire / Cal Fire conduct inspections in high fire areas and will alert you when inspectors will be in your area.
  • Request a defensible space inspection:
    Thinking of selling your home? A defensible space inspection is required. Request one here.
  • Get a Personalized Fire Safety Plan
    Answer a few simple questions to generate a plan for preparing your home and family for wildfire.
  • Your Town May Have Additional Resources
    Check with your city government for any municipal requirements and/or resources regarding fire safety.
If you have any questions, the Butte County Cooperative Fire Agencies are always there to help. 
Call (530) 538-7888.

Get a Personalized Fire Safety Plan