Protect Your Home From Wildfires and Conserve Water During California’s Drought
Published: 3 August 2022
Hot and dry conditions from California’s severe drought not only impact the amount of water we use in our homes, but it also makes wildfire season – which is now almost year-round in our state -- far worse. But there are ways you can conserve water and help protect your home from wildfires.
Because of the heightened risk, Save Our Water, CAL FIRE and the California Department of Water Resources have teamed up to share tips on how residents can create a fire safe and water smart landscape during the drought.
Create a “defensible space” of at least 100 feet around your home
A defensible space refers to managing fire hazard in “zones” around your home. Creating these protective zones can dramatically reduce the risk that falling embers from nearby wildfires will catch on plants, vegetation and even furniture around your home, which can have devastating results.
Here are some steps that property owners and many tenants can take to create a defensible space around their homes and reduce the risk of damage during a wildfire.
Keep the area around your home clear of dry vegetation
All Californians should consider creating a buffer between their property and any trees, shrubs, branches, weeds and tall grass. This can help your property survive a wildfire by preventing embers from igniting and allowing firefighters to access the space around your home to stop the fire.
Start by focusing on Zone 0, which includes all space within five feet of your home or property. Important steps to preventing wildfire damage (and conserving water while you’re at it) include:
- Using only rock, stone, or other inorganic mulches within five feet of the home.
- Removing common items like piles of firewood, garbage and recycling cans, and combustible patio furniture and ornaments within five feet of the home.
- Cleaning up fallen leaves, twigs, branches and other debris.
- Removing dry grass and dead plants immediately around the home.
- Remove anything combustible like firewood or containers from beneath decks, porches or overhangs.
- Choose decorations and outdoor ornaments made from fire resistant materials such as stone, metal or rubber.
Repeat these steps for Zone 1, which includes all space within 30 feet of your home or property. In this zone, be sure to keep trees and shrubs trimmed, and clean up fallen leaves and other debris.
Use fire-safe and water-wise landscaping
After clearing out the area immediately surrounding your home or property, it can be crucial to incorporate fire-safe landscaping. Luckily, many of the steps to maintaining a yard that prevents wildfire damage are also water smart.
First, be sure to cut or mow grass down to a maximum height of at least four inches. To save the greatest amount of water, keep lawn mower blades set to three inches.
Make sure trees and large shrubs have adequate space between them to slow the spread of flames. Visit CAL FIRE’s defensible space page to learn more about how to space your plants horizontally and vertically along slopes.
Wherever possible, use fire resistant mulch. This can help hold in ground moisture and prevent wildfire damage.
Learn more life-saving tips to guard your home or property against wildfire from CAL FIRE.