It’s your responsibility to provide defensible space

As your Cal Fire Prevention Specialist, I can not stress enough the importance for every property owner in the foothill and mountain areas of Eastern Madera County to provide defensible space around your homes - and the sooner the better, to help minimize the destruction from catastrophic events like last year’s Junction and Courtney fires.

Three elements are needed to sustain a fire: heat or an ignition source (matches, lighters or sparks) - fuel (grass, brush, trees, houses) - and oxygen. Take any one of these elements away and the fire doesn’t start or it goes out quickly.

For example, digging a fire line down to mineral soil removes the combustible materials and the fire progress stops. One thing that each one of us is in control of is the fuel. Removing over grown and dead vegitation on your property will dramatically increase your homes chances of survival in a wildfire. It will also dramatically increase the ability to stop a wildfire before it devastates your community.

Once a fire ignites its behavior depends on three factors: topography of the area, weather conditions, and the amount and arrangement of fuel. A change in any one of these factors alters a fire’s type (whether it’s a ground fire, surface fire or crown fire). One factor residents can control is the amount and arrangement of the fuel. Please remove all brush in, around, under and near your trees. The excess brush is taking precious ground water away from your trees and animals.

This excessive brush and drought team together to allow for pests and disease to attack your trees. The dead and dying trees increase the amount of fuel for a wildfire. Homeowners need to remove all tree branches at least 6 feet from the ground or 1/3 the height of smaller trees. Horizontal spacing of trees depends on the slope of the land and the height of the trees.

In flat to mild slope areas tree crowns should be a minimum of 10 feet apart - mild to moderate slope tree crowns should be at least 20 feet apart and on moderate to steep slopes tree crowns should be at least 30 feet apart. When tree crowns are farther apart, it is harder for fire to spread from one crown to another and benefits tree health by allowing greater access to sunlight, soil, nutrients and ground water.

The larger an area is treated on your property the more effective your clearance will be on moderating wildland fire behavior. Remember fuels reduction is an ongoing process. The effects of thinning and other fuel treatments will last 15 years or less. Follow up treatments will be necessary, it is best to do fuel reduction on your property every year so the work is spread out and more manageable. It is your responsibility to your family and your community.

It’s a choice to live in wildland areas, but along with that choice comes the responsibility to provide your home with defensible space. It could be catastrophic not to.

Please visit our web site at: for helpful tools to create your defensible space.