Skip to main content

Defensible Space

Help protect your home from wildfire. Creating defensible space is  effective – and cost-effective!

graphic showing defensible space

In the 5 feet immediately next to your house

Prepare for embers flying in from a mile or more away.

  • No vegetation here, no flammable mulch.
  • Stick to hardscape, like rock paths and patios, or even bare dirt.
  • Remove overhanging tree limbs.
  • Don’t leave anything flammable, like wooden furniture, fences, brooms, or wood piles in this zone, or under decks!

In the 5 to 100 foot zone (the next 95 feet)

You do NOT need to remove all trees and bushes here!

  • Remove all dead and dying plant material, including that hidden deep in shrubs and trees.
  • Its okay to use organic mulch like wood chips in this zone, as long as its no more than 3 inches deep.
  • Mow annual grasses and weeds to a 2-4 inch height. Consider mowing around wildflowers!
  • Limb up trees 6 feet or more from the ground – but not more than 1/3 of a tree’s height (to maintain tree’s health).
  • Choose which trees/shrubs you especially want to save for shade, wildlife value, visual appeal etc. (see below for help in choosing).  Remove enough of the trees and shrubs between those specimens to break up a path for fire – both horizontal and vertical. 
  • Create a “scattered” landscape – lots of space between trees and shrubs in the first 30 ft, still some space but not quite as much out to 100 ft (200 ft if your property is steep).
  • Keep shrubs away from the area under trees so they don't become "ladder fuels",  bringing fire to trees overhead.  Flames from a shrub can reach 3-4 times the height of the shrub.

Recommendation for trees: Canopies should be 10 feet apart.  This is especially  important for conifers, due to the resin in their pine needles.
Recommendation for shrubs: Space them at a distance equal to twice their height.  For example, if your shrubs are 2 feet high, you'd space them apart by 4 feet.

What if some of the 100 foot zone is on another property?

If you have a large parcel, you can control and mitigate all of the zones. If you do not, you may need the help of your neighbors to create 100-200 ft of defensible space. In like manner, your neighbor may need your help to create 100-200 ft of defensible space around their home.

May contain: label, text, symbol, logo, trademark, person, and human

Our new El Dorado County Vegetation Management Ordinance requires neighbors with property within 100 ft of your house to create defensible space there. In most cases, neighbors work together to assure that both of their homes are protected with defensible space, even if that space crosses property boundaries. In the rare case where a neighbor refuses to cooperate, the County provides a Defensible Space Program Complaint Form. Complaints will only be accepted on the official County complaint form. Click the link to see the form and the directions for using it.


Don't leave your home vulnerable:  Create defensible space!

May contain: plant, grass, tree, building, housing, cottage, house, and vegetation
Defensible Space
May contain: fire and forest fire
No Defensible Space