Want to fireproof your house? Here’s where to start


Safety standards define three risk zones around your home: Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3.

Zone 1 extends within 5 feet from every house, shed, garage or other structure.

Avoid hedges in Zone 1. If the plants catch fire and the glass breaks, embers may penetrate the home.

Wood decks should be fire resistant. Remove anything that may burn underneath or on top, such as furniture.

Trees should be avoided in Zone 1. If you can’t remove them, prune branches high and ensure they don’t overlap with the house.

Zone 2 covers anything within 5 to 30 feet of a structure.

Large trees in Zone 2 should be at least 10 feet away from structures. Remove any plants or debris under trees that could give flames a ladder to climb the tree canopy.

Tall trees such as conifers should be pruned 6 to 10 feet from the ground. Prune smaller ones a third of the way up.

Zone 3 is the final zone and covers anything within 30 to 100 feet of a structure. Your goal in this zone is to reduce the intensity of an approaching fire.

Trees in this zone should not be densely packed. Make sure all trees are at least 10 feet from one another and shrubs.

But fireproofing your property alone can do only so much, especially in densely populated Southern California.

Neighboring homes and zones often overlap. If your property is fireproofed properly but your neighbor’s is not, you’re still at risk.

Talk to your neighbors and ask them to remove fire risks. For a community to survive a wind-driven fire, each household must fully fireproof.

Extra tips to consider

Zone 1

  • Surround the home with hard, nonflammable surfaces, such as concrete, gravel, rock mulch.
  • Small, moisture-absorbing plants are OK if well-spaced and well-maintained to remove dead material.
  • Clear dead leaves and needles from roof and its gutters.

Zone 2

  • Any structures in Zone 2 (such as a neighbor’s house) close to your home should be assessed and treated under Zone 1 requirements.
  • Use patios, paths, decks as fuel breaks to reduce an approaching fire’s intensity.
  • Keep lawns mowed below 4 inches.
  • Remove heavy accumulations of debris under trees.
  • Trees should be at least 20 feet apart from each other and at least 10 feet from structures, but increase the distances on slopes greater than 40%.

Zone 3

  • Regularly maintain the zone to remove large piles of ground litter and fallen tree branches.
  • Keep trees and vegetation in islands spaced apart and lower branches pruned.