Fire is a factor living in the foothills and the Sierra Nevada and the "fire season" of years past that was limited to a few months has now grown to encompass nearly the entire calendar year. With the County having a diverse and complex landscape which includes mountains, forests and other brush, or grass covered wildlands which have the potential to fuel a catastrophic fire event, our risk of significant wildfire is no longer bound by the month on a calendar.
In El Dorado County, since 2007, there have been major fires that have destroyed infrastructure (e.g. Angora Fire, King Fire, Sand Fire, etc.). This increased fire activity requires an increase in prevention measures to lower the community's chances of experiencing a large destructive fire.
Of paramount importance is the protection of lives and property from the threat of fire and the safety of fire and law enforcement personnel during wildfires. The vegetation management/defensible space ordinance is one strategy to help decrease the chance of a catastrophic fire. This information will provide you with some helpful hints to assist you in defending your property.
Through studying fire prevention measures in other communities, working with local stakeholders and holding public meetings, the County developed a vegetation management/defensible space ordinance similar to CAL FIRE's defensible space laws. The vegetation management ordinance sets out the rules for an annual program for the abatement of the growth and/or accumulation of weeds, grasses, shrubs, dormant brush, hardwood slash, tree limbs, hazardous vegetation and combustible materials on all improved parcels and designated unimproved parcels within the County and maintenance of those parcels to prevent vegetation from growing back and becoming fuel for destructive fires.
The County will be communicating the new ordinance rules to the public over the next year with staff helping citizens come into compliance starting in June 2020.
Defensible Space is the area around a structure where combustible vegetation that can spread fire has been cleared, reduced or replaced. This space acts as a barrier between a structure and an advancing fire.
You need to clear combustible vegetation in a 100-foot radius from any structure. Your local fire agency or the County may require you to clear additional vegetation. You are not required to cross your property line in order to clear the 100 feet. The neighboring property owner may be required to clear the additional distance by the fire agency or County.
Remove all dead plants, grass, and weeds.
Remove dead or dry leaves, and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
Keep tree branches 10 feet away from your chimney and other trees.
Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.
You may need to do this several times a year since the plants grow back.
Create horizontal spacing between shrubs, and trees.
Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees.
Do not completely remove all vegetation which would leave the ground bare. Some vegetation is necessary to prevent erosion. When native vegetation is removed for fire control the bare soil is particularly vulnerable to soil erosion.
Do not remove or disturb the existing plant root system to prevent any future erosion.
Use Equipment Properly to Keep from Sparking a Wildfire.
Mow before 10a.m. and never on a hot or windy day. String trimmers are a safer option (vs. lawn mowers) for clearing vegetation.
Large trees do not have to be cut and removed as long as all of the plants beneath them are removed. This eliminates a vertical "fireladder."
It is suggested that you maintain a distance of 3 times the height of a shrub from the lowest branches of a tree.
A horizontal clearance of between 4-40 feet is generally recommended, depending on the slope and the size and type of vegetation. If you have specific questions, contact your local fire official.
People who own property with a structure or building, which is called an improved parcel, will need to create defensible space through vegetation management.
The neighboring property owner may be required to clear space if the structure or building is within 100 feet of the property line. For example, a structure could be within 70 feet of its property line. The adjacent property owner shall assist its neighbor by completing fuels management on another 30 feet to create a 100 foot strip of treated land. The adjacent property can be an improved parcel or an unimproved parcel (vacant) parcel.
In addition, improved and unimproved parcels adjacent to all roadways and determined by the county enforcement official (or designee) to be necessary for the safe ingress and egress to the area served by the roadway or fire access easement must be treated or abated.
The ordinance takes effect on May 30, 2019. However, the County will not be enforcing it until June 1, 2020. Over the next year, the County will work with residents to educate them about the need for defensible space/vegetation management so our community is safer. It's anticipated the County will begin enforcing the ordinance rules in June, 2020.
The goal of the defensible space/vegetation management ordinance is to create a safer El Dorado County rather than to be punitive. If the County does not see progress over a reasonable period of time, it has the ability to abate (clean) a property and lien it for the cost of the abatement.