Providing for Defensible Homes

In a large-scale wildfire incident, firefighting resources will be severely stressed. You can design or modify your home to resist wildfire. A defensible home has a far better chance of survival, with or without firefighters. The manner in which a house is designed, location where it is built, materials used in its construction, fire department access, and water supply for firefighting purposes all influence survivability during a wildfire. The following recommendations will make your home much easier for firefighters to defend and improve its chances of survival in a wildfire.

Roof
  • Install a non-combustible "Class A" fire retardant roof. Class "A" roofs are required within the City of Poway by ordinance.
  • Cover your chimney and stovepipe with an approved spark arrestor.
  • Remove dead trees and vine branches hanging over your roof.
  • Remove any tree branches within 10 feet of your chimney.
  • Clean all dead leaves, needles, and other combustible waste from your roof and rain gutters.
Construction
  • Build your home away from ridge tops, canyons, and areas between high points on a ridge.
  • Build your home at least 100 feet from your property line in wildland areas to provide for vegetative fuel removal and defensible space.
  • Use non-combustible, ignition-resistant materials for the exterior surfaces of your home.
  • Enclose the underside of eaves, balconies, above-ground decks, and other projections with fire and ignition-resistant materials.
  • Relocate your attic vents from under the eaves to gables or roof areas. Prefabricated attic vents for gable and roof applications are available.
  • Install only dual-pane tempered windows and skylights.
  • Protect the interior of your home from radiant heat caused by fire by installing residential fire sprinklers. A residential fire sprinkler system for your home may be required. Besides protecting your family when home, it may protect your home while you are away, and even prevent a house fire from spreading to the wildland.
Landscaping
Please refer to the preferred species listed in the defensible space section.

Yard
  • Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet away from all structures and clear away combustible vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles.
  • Locate liquified petroleum gas (LPG) tanks at least 30 feet from any structure and surround them with at least 10 feet clearance.
  • Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves, and other debris from your yard.
  • Open burning is not allowed within the City of Poway except for specific agricultural purposes and by Fire Department permit only.
Emergency Water Supply
Maintain an emergency water supply that meets fire department standards. This is best achieved by access to a City of Poway fire hydrant located no more than 500 feet from your residence in areas that are serviced by the city system. In areas outside of the municipal water service area, an onsite water tank of adequate capacity available to the Fire Department for fire fighting purposes is required.

Clearly mark all emergency water sources and notify your local fire department of their existence and create easy firefighter access to your closest emergency water source. A key consideration is if your water comes from a well, consider an emergency generator to operate the pump during a power failure, which often occurs during large-scale wildfire events.

Access
  • Identify at least 2 roads out from your neighborhood.
  • Design road width, grade, curves, and vertical clearance to allow large emergency vehicles.
  • Construct driveways to allow large emergency equipment to reach your home.
  • Make sure dead-end roads and long driveways have turnaround areas wide enough for emergency vehicles.
  • Construct turnouts along 1-way roads.
  • Make sure the address numbers on your home are reflective or contrasting with the background and large enough to be clearly seen from the street. If needed, provide a 2nd set of numbers.
  • Clear combustible vegetation at least 10 feet from roads and driveways.
  • Cut back overhanging tree branches above roads. Fire trucks need a minimum of 14 feet vertical clearance.
A thoughtful, well-designed, and well-maintained home, water supply, and access will greatly aid your fire department in meeting your needs in time of a wildfire emergency.