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“Defensible Space” 30FT or 100FT?

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San Andreas- Spring has arrived and it is time for foothill residents to work on fire proofing their properties for the coming fire season. Additionally, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) will soon be out inspecting for the law (Public Resource Code 4291) that requires fire breaks around all buildings on any mountainous or forest, brush or grass covered land. A big change occurred in this law January 1, 2005. A new section was added which increased the clearance requirements from 30 to 100 feet (or to the property line if closer).

The California State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection provides direction to CDF on how to enforce new legislation. Until the Board completes its review of the new section of the law, CDF will not be able to fully enforce it, and will rather provide general guidelines on how the rule should be implemented. The clearance requirements for the first 30 feet from a structure have not changed and CDF will take enforcement action as they have in the past.

Part of the intent of the new law is to reduce the risk of a large flame front or crown fire from occurring in the outer treated area (30 to 100 feet from the building). A ground fire can quickly climb up into brush and forest fuels. Grass fires spread to the tops of trees by stair stepping through brush, dead tree branches, and smaller trees. This results in a crown fire which is much more difficult to fight due to its sheer volume and propensity to cause spot fires well in advance of the flame front. Crown fires are direct threats to all buildings in their path.

With this in mind, treatment of the new zone (30 to 100 feet) is recommended as follows:

Remove all brushy vegetation and grass taller than 18 inches.

Prune tree branches up from the ground.

Remove all dead limbs, branches, and logs (slash) from ground level.

Remove all dead and dying standing trees and limbs.

Thin out the forest canopy and clumps of smaller trees underneath larger trees. **

** Note: Trees that are being commercialized require a permit from CDF.

CDF´s goal for this year is to educate the public on the need for the added clearance requirement, and to allow them adequate time to get the proper work completed. We appreciate the public´s cooperation and concern in making all the foothill communities more fire safe.