Wildfire Defensible Space

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Rules for Vegetation Near the Home

Per City of Santee Ordinance 500, amendments to the 2010 California Fire Code, Section 4907 is hereby amended adding Subsections 4907.2, 4907.2.1, 4907.2.2 and 4907.2.3.

4907.2 - Fuel Modified Defensible Space.

All new developments, subdivisions or tracts that are planned in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and/or Wildland-Urban Interface Areas shall have a minimum of 100 horizontal feet of “fuel modified” defensible space between structures and wildland areas. Depending on the percentage of slope and other wildland area characteristics, the Fuel Modified Defensible Space may be increased beyond 100 feet. Fuel Modified Defensible Space shall be comprised of two distinct brush management areas referred to as "Zone One" and "Zone Two."

4907.2.1 - Fuel Modified Defensible Space, Zone One.

“Zone One” is the first 50 feet measured from the structure toward the wildland. This area is the least flammable and consists of pavement, walkways, turf and permanently landscaped, irrigated and maintained ornamental planting. This vegetation should be kept in a well-irrigated condition and cleared of dead material. This area requires year-round maintenance. Fire-resistive trees are allowed if placed or trimmed so that crowns are maintained more than 10 feet from the structure. Highly flammable trees such as, but not limited to, conifers, eucalyptus, cypress, junipers and pepper trees are not allowed in WUI areas. This area shall be maintained by the property owner or applicable homeowners association(s).

4907.2.2 - Fuel Modified Defensible Space, Zone Two.

“Zone Two” is the second 50 feet of the 100 total feet of defensible space and is measured 50 feet from the structure to a total of 100 feet toward the wildland. Zone 2 shall consist of low-growing, fire-resistant shrubs and groundcovers. Average height of new plants for revegetation should be less than 24 inches. In this Zone, no more than 30% of the native, non-irrigated vegetation shall be retained. This area requires inspection and periodic maintenance. This area shall be maintained by the property owner or applicable homeowners association(s).

An area of 30 feet from each side of fire apparatus access roads and driveways shall be improved to “Zone One” standards and maintained clear of all but fire-resistive vegetation. This area shall be maintained by the property owner or homeowners associations, as with other defensible space areas.

4908.4 - Storage of Firewood and Combustible Materials.

Firewood and combustible materials shall not be stored in unenclosed spaces beneath buildings or structures, or on decks, under eaves, canopies or other projections or overhangs and shall be stored at least 20 feet from structures and separated from the crown of trees by a minimum horizontal distance of 15 feet.


 brush clerance

Fire Safety Recommendations for Santee Residents
Living Within the Wildland-Urban Interface

0 to 5 Feet From House Or Structure

Key Purpose:  To have the least flammable type of landscaping next to the structure and prevent direct flame contact.

  • Plant low-growing vegetation with high moisture content, such as flowers and groundcovers.
  • Keep plants maintained and irrigated.
  • Bark and other combustible landscape materials should not be used in this zone.
  • Maintain five feet of vertical clearance from eaves and roof surface.
  • Keep roof surface free of debris.
  • Remove any portion of tree growth that extends within ten feet of a chimney, stove pipe or heat vent.
  • Remove highly flammable native shrubs and all dead or dying vegetation.
  • Do not stack firewood or combustibles next to any home or structure.
  • Do not plant fire-prone shrubs and trees, such as junipers and pines, in this zone.
5 to 50 Feet From House Or Structure

Key Purpose:  To allow for home defense by firefighters and where vegetation fuels have been substantially reduced.

  • Use lawn, groundcovers, erosion control devices, low-growing shrubs and mulches in this zone.
  • Keep plants green during fire season.
  • Use supplemental irrigation, if necessary.
  • Remove all dead vegetation.  Vegetation in this area should be only of the fire-resistant type.  Keep well-maintained.  Reduce height and remove branches that are near the ground.
  • A thin layer of cut grass that is compact and close to the ground is acceptable.
  • Prune all dead and dying tree branches six feet from the ground.
  • Fire-resistant trees should be planted, trimmed and maintained ten feet horizontally from any structure.  Highly flammable trees, such as, but not limited to, conifers, cypress, eucalyptus, junipers, pines and pepper trees are not allowed in this zone if you live in a Wildland Urban Interface area.
  • Dry grass and weeds must be cut to less than three inches.
  • On slopes, bare ground in this zone may lead to erosion and is not recommended. Plant high-moisture content, fire-resistant groundcovers.
  • Firewood should be stored on the outer edge of this zone, 20 feet away from any structure and at least 15 feet horizontally from any tree crown.  
  • Accumulation of combustible waste materials creating a fire hazard is not permitted. No combustible materials shall be placed or stored within ten feet of any structure.
50 to 100 Feet From House Or Structure

Key Purpose:  Concept is to reduce fire intensity and flame length by modifying the native vegetation.

  • Property line may limit the length of this zone.
  • Should consist of low-growing, fire-resistant shrubs and groundcovers.
  • Average height of new plants for revegetation should be less than 24 inches.
  • For steep slopes exceeding 50% or 2:1, the distance for Zone 2 may need to be extended up to 200 feet total or more.
  • Remove all dead vegetation.
  • Keep existing vegetation irrigated and well maintained.
  • Thin continuous vegetation by selectively removing shrubs so as to leave space between each shrub cluster.
  • No more than 30% of native vegetation should remain within the square footage of the planted area.


cont. brush spacing 

  • Remove the lower branches of remaining shrubs, reduce height and thin the dense foliage by pruning dead or excess branches.

pruned and unpruned

  • Grasses and small shrubs may be left as high as 18 inches from the ground on steep slopes, for erosion control purposes.
  • Ornamental fire-resistant tree spacing other than a single specimen should be 2-3 specimens per cluster and clusters separated by at least ten feet horizontally at the crown.  On slopes over 40%, spacing should be at least 30 feet. Slopes 20%-40% space at 20 feet.
  • Trees shall be pruned of all dead or dying branches that are less than six feet to the ground and all excess dead wood or litter frequently removed.
  • Non-fire-resistant trees should be spaced at least 30 feet apart.

tree spacing 

Landowners who notice the existence of rare, threatened or endangered plants or wildlife on the property to be cleared must notify the Department of Fish and Game at least ten (10) days in advance of undertaking the vegetation clearance. If the landowner is aware of any State or Federal listed species on the property, then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Fish and Game should be notified prior to abatement. If a State or Federal candidate or listed species is killed, injured or captured, the landowner shall report this information to the Department of Fish and Game or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively. If you suspect you may have species of coastal sage or known Gnatcatcher habitat on your property or are in question, a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife may be required prior to clearing. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife at (760) 431-9440.