Defensible Space

Defensible Space Works

SCFCS_DefensibleSpaceDefensible Space slows the spread of wildfire and creates a buffer zone to help firefighters and first responders safely defend your home. Preparing your home for fire season is a year-round effort. Both a fire-resistant structure and defensible space are necessary.

Key components include:
• Design: Plan accordingly using defensible space best practices.
• Materials: Use fire-resistant materials.
• Frequent Maintenance: Keep vegetation irrigated and clear debris often.
Reproduced with permission from the National Fire Protection Association, copyright © 2019, NFPA, Quincy, MA. All rights reserved. This material is not the complete and official position of the NFPA on the referenced subject, which can be obtained through the NFPA website at

Create Defensible Space

Immediate Zone 0-5 FT Around Your Home

  • Create a no-fuel, or low-fuel, zone 0-5 ft around your home
  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, all debris and needles that could catch embers. Maintain clean gutters.
  • Use hard surfaces, such as concrete or fire-resistant materials.
  • If planting, use widely spaced, non-woody, low herbaceous vegetation away from vents, windows, and interior corners.
  • Remove combustibles. Store firewood and flammable materials at least 30 ft away from your home, garage, or deck. Never store flammable materials under your deck.
  • Shrubs and trees are not recommended in this zone. Trim back overhanging branches 10ft from your roof.

Intermediate Zone 5-30 FT Around Your Home

  • Create vegetation “islands”, to break up continuous fuels. Remove ladder fuels.*
  • Get rid of leaf and needle debris from the yard. Keep grass under 8 in.
  • Keep vegetation well irrigated and free from debris.

Extended Zone 30-100 FT Around Your Home

  • Create and maintain a minimum of 10 ft between the tops of trees. Remove ladder fuels.*
  • Remove dead trees and shrubs.

Landscaping with Wildfire in Mind

Under the right conditions, all plants will burn. However, there are plants you can select that are less prone to fire. When selecting fire-resistant plants, look for the following qualities: low volume of fuel, high-moisture content, and low amounts of oils and resins. Both the Sierra Nevada Alliance and the Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society provide helpful resources for native, fire-resistant landscaping in Nevada County.

Concerned About a Neighboring Parcel? Start Neighbor to Neighbor

RSG HandbookIf there is a concerning parcel in your neighborhood, start by talking to the property owner or collaborating with existing efforts through Firewise Communities. They may be already working with the property owner to resolve the issue. Inviting a neighbor to learn more often yields the best results. The Ready, Set, Go! Handbook and this website are a good jumping off points for discussing best practices and local requirements for creating safer, more fire-resistant properties, and evacuation routes.

Download a printable .pdf of the Ready, Set, Go! Handbook here (.pdf).

Sample Template Letter

Nevada County residents are having success achieving defensible space and egress clearance by working directly with their neighbors. This is a challenging but important topic that is best addressed through collaboration and community involvement. Sometimes putting it in writing is the best approach. Download this sample template letter (download MS Word doc.) to help you communicate with property owners via mail. 

Out of the Area Neighbors

If your neighbor’s primary residence is out of the area, consider sending them a letter to express your concerns as stated above. If you are do not know their contact information, we can help you find this information in two ways:

My Neighborhood Map1. Online at the My Neighborhood Map

Nevada County residents have access to a map portal called My Neighborhood. Use this mapping tool to search for mailing  property details such as Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN), address, districting, representatives, valuation, and zoning. 

Click here for more information and to launch the My Neighborhood Map.

2. In-Person at the Assessor’s Office

You may also visit the public kiosk in the lobby of the Assessor’s Office, at 950 Maidu Avenue, Suite 290, Nevada City, to determine the property owner’s name, mailing address and Assessor’s parcel number (APN).