The Vegetation Management Section (VMP) is responsible for producing Santa Barbara County’s Unit Fire Plan, as well as planning and oversight of range improvement burns and VMP projects. The Unit Fire Plan ensures compliance with state mandates regarding the county’s hazardous fuel beds while range improvement burns not only assist ranchers with improved grazing lands, but assist fire managers with reduced fuel loads. Encompassed in this responsibility is the administration of the Defensible Space Program as outlined in California’s Public Resource Code 4291.
Defensible Space General Guidelines
Defensible Space refers to an area around the perimeter of structures or developments in the wildlands where the flammable vegetation has been modified to reduce the potential for the structure and/or structures to ignite in the event of a wildfire.
Defensible space is key to defending structures from wildfire. Millions of Californians live in residential developments that border fire prone wildlands.
Each year, hundreds of homes in the wildland interface are lost to wildfires. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire), as many as 80 percent of the homes lost to wildfires in the past could have been saved if the owners had followed a few simple fire safe practices.
Clearance from all structures shall not be less than 100 feet using surface measurements. Within the 100-foot perimeter, all brush, flammable vegetation, or combustible growth shall be modified so that a wildfire burning under average weather conditions would be unlikely to ignite the structure.
Single specimens of trees, ornamental shrubbery or ground covers are permissible provided that they do not form a means of rapidly transmitting fire from the native growth to any structure. Such specimens shall be spaced a minimum of 10-15 feet, both horizontally and vertically, from other specimens, structures or surrounding native brush. All trees and shrubs shall be maintained free of deadwood and litter.
Roof surfaces shall be maintained free of accumulations of leaves, needles, twigs, or other combustible materials. Chimneys shall be provided a 10-foot clearance from trees.
Access roads shall be maintained with a minimum 10-foot clearance on each side of the traveled section. Trees and shrubs protruding over the access roadway shall be trimmed to a minimum height of 13 feet 6 inches to allow proper access for emergency equipment.
Discing and rototilling are acceptable methods for removing small types of vegetation. The material shall be tilled or disced into the soil in a manner to eliminate possible fire spread.
These minimum standards are established to provide reasonable measures of controlling both fire and erosion hazards and to protect lives and property. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department may require greater protection levels in high-danger areas. In special cases where difficult terrain, danger of erosion or environmentally sensitive habitat areas makes compliance difficult, the requirements can be adjusted to accomplish all goals.
For additional information regarding the requirements for Defensible Space as outlined in PRC 4291 please go to http://www.readyforwildfire.org/.
Hazard Reduction Program
Every year, the County Fire Department sends notices to abate fire hazards to the owners of all properties in county fire jurisdiction that potentially pose a fire hazard, in conjunction with public education efforts through media outlets such as local television stations and newspapers. These notices indicate the onging defensible space requirements. Property owners have approximately three weeks to meet the requirements for clearing property outlined in the notice for their property.
A misdemeanor citation is issued to all property owners that do not comply by the compliance date. Issuance of a misdemeanor citation may require an appearance in court. If for any reason the County Fire Department is forced to abate a fire hazard, the owner will pay all costs involved, including, but not limited to, a contractor fee and an administrative fee, which will be added to the taxes assessed against the property.
Hazard Reduction: For specific questions about your parcel, contact your local Fire Station.