Simplify Your Family's Emergency Preparedness

How to Prepare Your Defensible Space for Wildfire Emergencies

neighborhood at night in front of wildfire in mountains.

Be honest, have you ever heard the phrase defensible space?


I know a lot of people who haven’t, so you wouldn’t be in the minority. When it comes to protecting your home from wildfires, there’s one strategy that can make a significant difference – creating a defensible space around your home. By implementing this crucial fireproofing measure, you can enhance the chances of your home surviving in the face of a raging inferno.


In fact, this is so important that in California (where I live), there is actually a law that requires 100 feet of defensible space around homes/structures.


Whether or not you live in a wildfire prone area, this is important information to know. Your knowledge could help family or friends, or maybe someday you’ll find yourself moving to such a place and it will become part of your wildfire safety plan.


Keep reading to learn the importance of a defensible space, the key principles behind it, and tips on how to create it around your home. 

**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

What does defensible space mean and why is it so important?

Defensible space refers to the area around your home that has been cleared, modified, or designed to reduce fire risk. This includes maintaining a buffer zone that is free from highly flammable materials, such as landscaping and combustible debris.


Not only does a defensible space provide firefighters with better access to your property, but it also helps slow down the spread of fires, which reduces the likelihood of significant damage to your home.


Plus, one of the perks of emergency preparedness is that it gives you peace of mind, knowing that you have taken proactive steps to protect your property and loved ones.

Defensible Space Zones

When you hear talk or read articles about preparing your home for wildfires, you will often hear about defensible space zones. These zones start at the home and work their way out to 100 feet or to your property line, whichever comes first.  So let’s just get a basic understanding of the three zones:



This includes the structure of your home and up to 5 feet out from it.



This zone includes everything within 5-30 feet of the perimeter of your home.



This area includes everything within 30-100 feet of the perimeter of your home.

graphic showing defensible space zones around a house.

Look at the first 5 feet around your home

Creating a defensible space requires careful planning and execution. Zone 0 (aka the ember-resistant zone) might just be the most important zone. You do not want anything in this area that could ignite and spread the fire to your home.

Here are some tips and guidelines to help you implement this fireproofing measure effectively:


  1. Clear vegetation: Look for things like pine needles, dry grass, dead leaves and small twigs. These things tend to accumulate in corners or near downspouts.
  2. Exterior structure: Make sure you clear your patio, deck (on and under), roof and gutters.
  3. Trim trees: Trim tree branches that overhang your roof or touch power lines. This reduces the risk of embers igniting your home.
  4. Space out plants: When landscaping, ensure that plants and shrubs are adequately spaced. This prevents the spread of fire from one plant to another.
  5. Choose fire-resistant plants: Opt for fire-resistant plants that are less likely to ignite and spread flames. Consult with local experts or nurseries to identify suitable options for your region.
  6. Remove flammable items: This includes small propane tanks for grills. If it’s not an option to keep it farther away from the house, make sure it’s off when not in use and that it’s either sitting on a concrete slab or in the propane holder on your grill. If you’re storing firewood, do not keep it up against your house. Ideally firewood will be at least 30 feet away from the house.

Moving out to Zones 1 and 2

This will have you looking out over your property up to 100 feet (or to your property line).


  1. Think Lean, Clean and Green.
    • Maintain a well-irrigated lawn and landscaping
    • Keep the grass 4 inches or shorter
    • Don’t use a lawnmower on dry grass
    • Try to mow when it’s not windy outside
  2. Keep a clearance between your plants. Make sure you’re separating bushes or thinning them out regularly
  3. Watch your trees.
    • At full maturity, trees should have 10 feet between the crowns
    • Maintain a vertical distance of at least 6 feet from the lowest branches to the ground
  4. Keep a separation between trees or shrubs and things like patio furniture and playsets. Basically, you don’t want the fire to have something to jump to.

Creating Defensible Space: Tips and Guidelines

Choosing Fire-resistant materials for your home

In addition to creating a defensible space, choosing fire-resistant materials for your home can further enhance its fireproofing capabilities. Here are some considerations when selecting materials:


  1. Roofing: Opt for roofing materials that have a Class A fire rating. These materials are highly resistant to fire and can significantly reduce the risk of your roof catching fire.
  2. Exterior walls: Consider using non-combustible materials for your exterior walls, such as stucco, brick, or concrete. These materials are less likely to ignite and can provide an additional layer of protection.
  3. Windows and doors: Install tempered glass windows and fire-resistant doors to prevent the entry of embers and flames into your home.
  4. Vents and eaves: Use ember-resistant vents and cover your eaves with non-combustible materials to prevent fire entry points.

Landscaping for Fire Safety

Effective landscaping plays a crucial role in fire prevention and protection. Here are some landscaping practices to consider:


  1. Create fire breaks: Designate areas in your landscape where vegetation is minimal or absent. These fire breaks act as barriers, preventing fires from spreading.
  2. Use hardscape materials: Incorporate hardscape materials, such as gravel pathways and stone walls, into your landscape design. These materials are fire-resistant and can help slow down the spread of fires.
  3. Avoid highly flammable plants: Avoid planting highly flammable vegetation, such as juniper, pine, and eucalyptus near your home. Instead, opt for fire-resistant plants that are native to your region.
  4. Maintain vegetation: Regularly maintain your landscape by trimming plants, removing dead vegetation, and keeping grass mowed. This reduces the availability of fuel for potential fires.

Maintaining Defensible Space: Regular Inspections and Maintenance

Creating a defensible space is not a one-time task; it requires regular inspections and maintenance. Here are some steps to ensure the effectiveness of your defensible space:

#1 Regular Inspections

Conduct regular inspections of your defensible space to identify any potential hazards or areas that require attention. Look for overgrown vegetation, accumulation of debris, or any changes in the surrounding landscape.

#2 Remove Flammable Materials

Regularly remove any flammable materials that may have accumulated within your defensible space. This includes fallen leaves, branches, and other combustible debris.

#3 Monitor Irrigation

Ensure your irrigation system is functioning correctly and providing adequate water to your landscape. Regularly check for any leaks or malfunctions that may compromise the fireproofing capabilities of your defensible space.

#4 Stay Informed

Stay updated with local fire regulations, guidelines, and recommendations. This allows you to adapt your fireproofing strategies based on changing conditions and new information.

The benefits of Defensible Space in protecting your home and community

Implementing a defensible space around your home offers numerous benefits in protecting your property and community:

#1 - Increased chances of survival

By creating a defensible space, you significantly increase the chances of your home surviving a wildfire. The cleared area acts as a barrier, slowing down the spread of fires and reducing the risk of your home catching fire.

#2 - Improved firefighter access

A well-maintained defensible space provides firefighters with better access to your property. This allows them to effectively combat the fire and protect your home.

#3 - Reduced fire risk

By removing highly flammable materials and maintaining a clear buffer zone, you reduce the risk of fire spreading to your home and neighboring properties.

#4 - Peace of mind

Knowing that you have taken proactive steps to fireproof your home can provide peace of mind. It allows you to feel confident in the resilience of your property during wildfire seasons.

Fireproofing resources and services

If you require assistance with fireproofing your home or need additional resources, consider the following options:

Take proactive steps toward your wildfire safety plan

Preparing your defensible space is something you can do now to protect your property and loved ones from the devastating effects of wildfires. Remember to include them in the plan!

By understanding the importance of fireproofing, implementing defensible space guidelines, choosing fire-resistant materials, and maintaining your landscape, you can significantly enhance the chances of your home surviving a wildfire.

Don’t wait for disaster to strike!

wildfire encroaching on neighborhood.

Related Posts:

5 simple things you can do to get your family prepared if you don't have thousands of dollars or hundreds of hours


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