(Photo courtesy of Marin County Fire Department)
Marin County Fire prevention season is upon us and now is the time to protect our two most important assets — our families and our homes. Last year’s disastrous North Bay fires highlighted how vulnerable we are to wildfire and the importance of preparation. CAL FIRE has begun a public information campaign (“Why 100 Feet?“) and operates an excellent website with lots of tips to minimize fire danger.
In Marin County we are fortunate to have more than 80% of our beautiful county as preserved open space. However the downside of this is that we have thousands of acres of woodland abutting many homes. This is referred to as a “Wildlife Urban Interface Area” — homes abutting open space must take special precautions to prepare for fire.
One step especially important for Marin County residents to take is to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their home. As of 2005, California homeowners are required by law to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their homes. This is comprised of the first 30 feet — which is called the “lean, green and clean” zone — and an additional 70 foot zone called the “reduced fuel zone.”
For the first 30 feet, Marin County homeowners should remove all flammable vegetation surrounding their home. This includes but is not limited to dead plants, dead leaves on the ground, weeds including invasive species like Scotch Broom, and tree limbs less than 6 feet from the ground. Care should also be taken to clean leaves and pine needles from gutters and the roofs of dwellings to prevent sparks from a wildfire from igniting them. You may wish to consult this article on fire resistant plants and landscaping practices. More information on plant selection is also available from FireSafe Marin.
For the next 70 feet from the home, fire officials recommend different approaches based on terrain and vegetation. Large trees may be left in place as long as all branches 6 feet and under from the ground are removed, and as long as all brush and grass beneath the trees is removed. If the terrain is steeper, homeowners may want to consider clearing a greater distance — up to 300 feet from their homes — if possible.
Marin County Fire Prevention Safety Tips:
Source: Wildfire Preparedness Checklist 2018, Marin County Fire Department
• Do you know all possible routes out?
• Owners are responsible to maintain vegetation on their propertyto keep roads, driveways, and routes clear!
• Emergency vehicles need 12’ width & 15’ vertical clearance.
• Coordinate & help your neighbors.
• Have a plan for animals & know what to take. Go EARLY!
• 100’ required by law to keep fire away from your home.
• Create a buffer zone around your home by removing grass, weeds, brush and all dead vegetation.
• Create space between plants and limb trees 6’ above ground.
Hardening Your Home
• Make your home fire resistant with design and materials.
• Keep balconies & decks clean. Embers can collect in or on combustible surfaces or undersides of decks.
• Roofs are the most vulnerable surface where embers can land. Use gutter guards or screens and keep clean.
• Embers can ignite your home under open eaves.
• Embers can enter the attic or other spaces. Screen vents with 1/8” mesh.
• Embers can enter gaps in doors. Remove plants or combustible items near windows
- Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from your home, and remove vegetation from within 10 feet of woodpiles
- Mow all grasses and weeds on your property at the end of the winter rains in May or early June
- Remove highly combustible plants like Juniper, Bamboo and Eucalyptus in the 30 foot zone around your home
- Install home address numbers that are at least 3 inches tall and on a contrasting background
- Irrigated gardens of low-resin plants are considered buffer zones and will slow a fire
- Schedule a site visit with your local fire department for tips on your specific situation – I have personally found this to be very helpful
- For more tips, consult this great guide from CAL FIRE.
We are fortunate in Marin County to have hundreds of men and women who are ready to protect our homes, families and property. You may wish to consult your local fire department to learn more about the programs they offer, including site visits and trainings such as how to work your home fire extinguishers and what to do in the event of a fire.
Complete List of Marin County Fire Departments:
You may want to watch this video from CAL FIRE on fire prevention steps and their inspection program:
I hope you have found this article about Marin County fire prevention helpful. While fire is a real danger here in Marin, it’s the price we pay for living among so much of nature’s beauty. Remember, you can significantly reduce this risk: According to CAL FIRE “Proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of your house surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a wildland fire.” If I can be of any assistance with your home needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 415-847-5884 or use the contact form below. Wishing you a safe and happy summer!
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