Providing for Defensible Space
The 1st goal in creating a defensible space is to remove fire-prone plants, then replant with low fuel species at appropriate densities to reduce fuel available to burn.
Sometimes, wildland vegetation and landscaping can occur as an uninterrupted cover of vegetation as opposed to being irregular or widely spread individual plants. The more continuous and dense the vegetation, the greater the wildfire threat is to your home. If this situation is present within your recommended defensible space area, you should break it up by creating separation between plants or small groups of plants.
Vegetation is often present at varying heights, similar to rungs on a ladder. Under these conditions, flames from fuels burning at ground level can be carried to shrubs, which can ignite still higher fuels like tree branches. The ladder fuel problem can be corrected by providing a separation between the vegetation layers. Within the defensible space area, a vertical separation of three times the height of the lower fuel layer is recommended
Landscaping with wildfire in mind involves plant selection based primarily on the plant's ability to reduce the wildfire threat. Minimize or eliminate the use of evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 to 50 feet of a structure, because junipers, other conifers, and broadleaf evergreens, such as eucalyptus, contain oils, resins, and waxes that make these plants burn with great intensity. Use ornamental grasses and berries sparingly because they also can be highly flammable.
This table lists several species of plants that generate very flammable vegetative fuel or are invasive exotic plant species. Non-recommended species include the following.
|Acacia (most species)
|Eucalyptus (most species)
|Salvia (most species)
|Canary Island Palm
|California Fan Palm
|Mexican Fan Palm
*Invasive exotic plant species commonly available from nurseries
"Fire Smart" Plants
Choose "fire smart" plants. These are plants have high moisture content and are low growing. Their stems and leaves are not resinous, oily, or waxy. Deciduous trees are generally more fire resistant than evergreens because they have a higher moisture content when in leaf and a lower fuel volume when dormant. Recommended species include the following.
Groundcovers & Low Shrubs (Under 36 Inches Mature Height)
|"Twin Peaks" Dwarf Coyote Brush
|White Trailing Ice Plant
|Purple Trailing Lantana
|Croceum Ice Plant
Groundcovers & Low Shrubs (Under 24 Inches Mature Height)
|"Pacific Mist" Manzanita
|"Twin Peaks" Dwarf Coyote Brush
|Ceanothus griseus hor.
|"Yankee Point" Wild Lilac
|Sage leaf Rockrose
|San Diego Marsh Elder
|Wooly Blue Curls
|Our Lord's Candle
|Prunus ilicifolia ssp. ilicifolia
|Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii
|Coast Live Oak
Maintaining Defensible Space
A fire-resistant plant can lose this quality altogether if not properly maintained and irrigated. Lack of long-term attention can result in fire-resistant plants loading up with dead twigs, leaves, and branches to grow into large yet sometimes indiscernible fuel volumes. Drip irrigation, plus periodic pruning and cleaning, can maintain the fire resistance and the appearance of landscaping.
Federal and state environmental regulations are designed to protect and preserve habitat. They may appear to conflict with fire protection planning concepts. However, environmental law should not be ignored in preparing for wildfire. Cooperation between environmental regulators, fire agencies, and property owners has allowed for clearance from existing structures for fire protection purposes only. Before any clearing is done, contact the Department of Development Services for guidance.
Collectively, fuel reduction, elimination of ladder fuels, intelligent landscaping, maintenance of low fuel landscaping, and awareness of applicable environmental regulations can provide for defensible space against wildfires.
Fire DepartmentPhysical Address
13325 Civic Center Drive
Poway, CA 92064
13325 Civic Center Drive 2nd Floor Poway CA 92064
Phone: 858-668-4460Emergency Phone: 911
Monday through Thursday
7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Please note: Closed every other Friday