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Is Your Access Road Fire Safe?

Hi to all my neighbors in the Oak Hill area,

We live in a beautiful place. I have been enjoying the green leaves of the black oaks especially when the crisp clear blue spring sky is the backdrop. The sound of the birds in the daytime and the frogs in the night. And the fresh clean smell of the air after a rain.

This beautiful place we live in has one big danger – wildfire. We need to manage the forest we live in to mitigate the danger. Clearing out dead wood and brush, eliminating fuel ladders into the crowns, and promoting a healthy forest all matter.

If there is a fire, we are concerned about evacuation. Most of us have only one way to get out. So, what can we each do to make our primary, and possibly only, exit safer?

Narrow road with overhanging tree
The road bed is less than 20 feet and the tree on the left has less than 15 feet of vertical clearance.


CAL FIRE recommends that:

  • All roads should be 20 feet wide. This allows two-way traffic. While we are trying to get out, emergency equipment can get in.
  • In addition, each side of the road should have 5 feet of clear space. If the space is not clear and catches fire, the 20-foot roadbed suddenly gets very narrow!
  • Finally, there should be 15 feet of vertical clearance above the road.



20 ft road bed with 5 ft side clearance
A good example of a 20 foot road bed with 5 feet of clear space.






Go have a look at the road along your property. Does it meet this standard? What do you need to do for it to meet this standard? Every property owner is responsible for maintaining 5 feet of clear space along the road and 15 feet of vertical space above the road. It is the responsibility of property owners to maintain the clearance along the road



Road with less than 5 ft space on side
An example of non-clear 5 foot roadside space on the right.

Unless you are at the very end of the road, others must pass your property. If you don’t maintain the road and 5 feet of clear space according to the standard, you put others at risk if there is a wildfire event. So please be a good neighbor and clear the brush along the road! If you need help, ask. There are neighbors who are willing to help.



Road with 5 ft clear space
A good example of clear space at the road side of 5 feet.








The standard of 20-foot roadbed, 5 feet of clear space on each side, and 15 feet vertical clearance applies to both private roads and county roads. This standard is not being met in many cases. Please take up your responsibility to clear the 5 feet of space and the vertical clearance.


Road w/space on left, fence on right
This road is less than 20 feet wide but has good clearance on the left side. The right side is not fully 5 feet and a wooden fence is a concern.

Note: The 5 feet of clear space includes brush and fences but not big healthy trees if they are limbed up and there are no fuel ladders such as branches, shrubs, or bushes. 







In cases where the roadbed is not 20-feet wide, please do the following.

  • If it is a county road, please notify the county about the problem and ask them to fix it.
  • If it is a private road, talk with neighbors who use the road and seek to come up with a solution. Just as the problems for various private roads are different, the solutions will be different. The solutions might mean forming a road association or strengthening an existing one so it can actually make improvements. Legally the users of a private road are responsible for road maintenance.

Even if your roadbed is less than 20-feet wide, maintaining 5 feet of clear space on each side still helps a great deal with ingress and egress. So, again, be a good neighbor and clear the 5 feet along the road by your property.