Wildfires are a constant threat for those living in Southern California, especially in wildland-urban interface areas such as those inside and surrounding Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District’s (RSFFPD) communities. The RSFFPD employs a hazard abatement inspector who surveys properties for fire hazards and mails notices to property owners in violation of the Fire District Ordinance 2004-02 and 2011-01, which can be found at www.rsf-fire.org.
The RSF Fire District is currently in the process of sending letters out to all residents within the RSFFPD service area reminding them of the local hazard abatement requirements. Here are some ways you can safeguard not only your home, but your entire community. These requirements can also be found in their entirety on the RSF Fire District web site: www.rsf-fire.org.
New Hazards are Increasing the Threat
There are a number of plant and tree species that have been infected by insect infestation, disease, and lack of maintenance. Some of this vegetation has gone from being decorative to becoming a potential fire hazard. Over the last few years, the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District has seen an increase in the amount of tree mortality especially with eucalyptus and California pepper trees, oleanders, myoporum and certain acacia species. Property owners should survey their properties for dead or dying trees and remove them as necessary in order to reduce the fire hazard. Replacement trees should be approved by the Fire District and your local Homeowner’s Association.
Create and Maintain Defensible Space
“Defensible space” is a term used to describe a 100-foot “buffer zone” around all structures on your property and 30-foot zone along either side of roadways and driveways in which dead and dying vegetation is removed and excess growth is thinned. Defensible space will not only give firefighters a safe place to make a stand against threatening flames, but it has been proven to save homes and minimize property damage.
Creating a defensible space around your home can be as simple as removing combustible vegetation and flammable materials and replanting with drought-tolerant, fire resistive trees, shrubs and plants. Keep vegetation well-maintained and remove any dead foliage throughout the year. Weeds and grasses must be cut below six-inches in height. Trees and native vegetation should not come into direct contact with structures or parts thereof. Tree limbs and foliage must be trimmed 10 feet from rooftops, chimneys, and outdoor barbecues. Tree limbs should also be trimmed up at least 6 feet from the ground.
Roofs and Rooftops
Most homes with wood-shake roofs do not survive wildfires. During a fire storm, these homes burn from the outside-in. If you own a home with a wood roof, there is no more time to delay; retro-fit your home with a roof made of non-combustible materials. Many newer roofing materials now resemble wood-shake so homeowners can experience the aesthetic qualities they desire while making their home a defendable one. However, a non-combustible roof can become a combustible roof quite easily if leaf litter and debris accumulate on your roof. To safeguard your roof, regularly maintain your roof and rain gutters free from any debris.
Roadways and Driveways
Keep roadways and driveways clear from overhanging vegetation, which may hinder both evacuation efforts and access of incoming fire engines. From the edge of driveways and roadways, measure 13-feet, 6-inches straight up from the ground. Any overhanging bushes or branches in this area must be pruned back or removed to create vertical tree clearance.
Other Important Items
•Remove dead palm fronds on palm trees within 100 feet from a structure or 30 feet from a roadway/driveway.
•Trim combustible vegetation 10-feet away from propane (LPG) tanks, and keep wood piles at least 30-feet away from any structure on your property.
•Stack and store firewood 30 feet from all structures. All flammable vegetation and combustible materials must be cleared or removed within 30 feet of firewood stacks.
•Maintain a visible address. Whether it’s a wildfire or an every-day emergency, firefighters need to be able to read your address. Your address number should be visible from the street, with numerals at least 4-inches in height, mounted on a contrasting background.
•If you own a private gate, it must be equipped with an approved fire district gate access switch and/or strobe sensor to allow firefighters to access your property during emergencies. Additionally, during wildfires, many firefighters arrive from out of the area and won’t be able to access your gated property. During a wildfire, disconnect the manual override motor on your electric gate, or if you have a manual gate, leave the gate open. Otherwise, firefighters may have to use blunt force on your gate, causing significant damage.
If you have questions regarding vegetation management, contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 858-756-5971. More wildfire prevention tips are available on our web site at www.rsf-fire.org.