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Sonoma County Firescaping | Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Property for Fire Season

Graphic by the San Diego County Fire Authority

As fire season approaches in Sonoma County, it's crucial to ensure your property is well-prepared to mitigate potential risks. Adopting firescaping maintenance tasks can significantly bolster your property's resilience against wildfires. Proactive measures can make a substantial difference in protecting your home and surrounding environment. Stay ahead of the curve with these essential maintenance tasks for tailored to Sonoma County residents.

Maintain Emergency Access

To ensure a safe escape in case of a fire hazard, it's crucial to keep the road in front of the property, the driveway, and surrounding pathways well-maintained.

  • Maintain the road, driveway, and pathways.

  • Remove combustible vegetation (dry grass, brush, weeds, litter and waste) within a 5-foot radius on both sides.

  • Trim overhanging vegetation to ensure a minimum clearance of 10 feet.

  • Apply non-slip treatments to sloping pathways for added safety.

Clean 5 Feet Around Structures

To minimize the risk of fire ignition around your property, eliminate any clutter that could fuel a fire.

  • Clear away tools, trash, recyclables, stored wood, and leafy debris near structures. Store these items inside the house, in a non-flammable shed, or at least 10 feet away from the house.

  • Maintain a clearance of 15 feet between tree limbs, large shrubs, and any structure, and ensure they are trimmed to stay 10 feet above the roof.

  • Replace dry, woody mulches with inorganic mulches or humus to reduce fire risk.

Clean and Tend to Landscape 30 Feet Around Structures

The objective of Zone 1 is to eliminate firebrands and withstand extreme heat.

  • Clear away loose bark plants like mistletoe and Spanish moss from shrubs and trees.

  • Ensure there are adequate spaces between large clusters of vegetation.

  • Stop ground covers and vines from growing on fences, shade structures, shrubs, trees, and utility poles.

Maintain Outer Areas of Property

To enhance fire safety around a property, it's crucial to manage vegetation and maintain clearances in the zones extending outward from a structure.

Zone 2 (30 feet to 70 feet from a structure) aims to halt ground fires with these strategies:

  • Eliminate flammable vegetation and debris around LPG tanks, outbuildings, and woodpiles.

  • Keep a sufficient distance between shrubs and trees to prevent fire spread.

Zone 3 (71 feet to 100 feet from a structure) focuses on significantly slowing down fires through:

  • Continued removal of flammable vegetation and ensuring open spaces between larger plants and trees.

For both zones, it's also essential to:

  • Conduct thorough checks of irrigation systems to identify and correct potential fire hazards such as signs of erosion (evidenced by rills and gullies), overspray (indicated by circular stains), or regular runoff (manifested by algae in curbs), which can all contribute to fire risk.

Operate Machinery With Care

Machinery like mowers, weed-eaters, chainsaws, and similar equipment can generate friction, heat, and sparks, posing a fire risk. To mitigate this danger:

  • Install spark arresters on portable gas-powered tools such as chainsaws, weed-eaters, and mowers to catch and reduce the emission of sparks.

  • Regularly inspect the exhaust system and spark plugs for carbon accumulation, which can increase the risk of sparks.

  • Avoid placing a running or recently operated engine on grass or any flammable vegetation to prevent ignition.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher within reach when using such equipment, ensuring you can quickly respond to any fire outbreaks.

  • Refrain from operating machinery after 10 am during the fire season to reduce the risk of igniting a fire during the hottest part of the day.

  • Cease using equipment on extremely hot, dry, and windy days, as these conditions significantly increase the likelihood of a fire starting and spreading.

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