Defensible Space for Fire Resistance

Defensible space, combined with home fire hardening, can increase the odds of your house or home surviving a fire that comes onto your property. In Los Gatos, a large portion of our town, and neighboring unincorporated communities, falls under areas where homeowners are required to mitigate the wildfire risk by reducing fuel and taking other actions. We’ll look at where those areas are and what homeowners in them are required to do.

1 – Mandatory defensible space areas

Is your property in a mandatory defensible space zone? In Los Gatos, there are two listed types under this umbrella:

You can see if your Los Gatos home is in either of these zones by checking the town’s online map, a smaller version of which is below. Areas in red require defensible space criteria to be met and are in one area or the other.

 

Los Gatos - defensible space zones for fire risk mitigation
Click on image to view map on the town’s website – Los Gatos. Mandatory defensible space zones for fire risk mitigation are in red.

As you can see, many Los Gatos neighborhoods fall into this zone, including much of the Civic Center area, Vista del Monte, Glenridge, and many more.

What about unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno?

 

Cal Fire map of hazard severity zones

 

The town’s map is fairly busy and does not cover the unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno. An easier one to zoom in on, and which is agnostic toward town boundaries, is on the Cal Fire site, but you will need to zoom quite a few times to see your area. I find this one much easier to read.

2 – What do you need to do to create defensible space in the high fire risk zones?

Laws regulating what must be done (and what can be done, in the case of additions and new construction) in the higher risk fire areas come from both the town and the state. Both of them aim to get residents to remove fuel, such as dead leaves, needles, plants, firewood, and so on are a major step. Thinning brush out, or thinning lower tree branches so that it’s harder for fire to spread is also key. Spacing trees and bushes away from each other, and especially from the house and chimney of homes in the high fire risk zones is crucial, too. Read on to get lists of what to clear out if your property is in these areas with increased fire risk.

Read more

Garden Against Fire!

Landscaping for Wildfire ProtectionThe Los Gatos Library will host an online class, Landscaping for Wildfire Protection

Coming up Thursday, September 24th from 6-7pm Pacific.

Does your garden fight fires? With fire season growing longer and fiercer each year with devastating losses, you might be wondering what you can do to lower risks and protect your property against wildfires. Especially if you live near one of the Bay Area’s beautiful greenspaces! Join the Los Gatos Library with speaker Barbara Hunt, UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, to learn about how wildfires spread and how to landscape to protect your home, from hardscapes to fire-resistant plants. This is a free lecture aimed at California homeowners but open to all.

For more information and the Zoom link, please view the event page.

Join the event on Facebook and set a reminder.

Want to learn more about fire in Los Gatos? Check out some of my other posts on this topic:

Los Gatos Fire Risk

Wildfire Evacuation Route Signs Being Installed (2016)

Fighting Fire With … Wine

A History of Los Gatos Fires and the Los Gatos Fire Department

Combined fire map with evacuation zones 2020

A combined fire map with evacuation zones is now available! As the various fire complexes engulf the San Francisco Bay Area, the Monterey Bay Area, and much of the state, it’s been challenging to see regional maps since Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties were using Garmin Maps and Santa Clara and other counties were using Google map. Yesterday I found a new combined fire map with the evacuation zones published on Garmin and am happy to share that link with you here.

 

Combined fire map with evacuation areas shows

 

There are disclaimers, of course, as you log into the site. Because it is collecting info from several counties, that info may not be as updated as from the county in question.  The CZU fire, though, now has warning zones in Santa Clara County (from the heights of Montebello Road in Cupertino down to Redwood Estates in Los Gatos), so creating a map that would include Santa Clara County makes sense.

For me, this is  far more helpful than a list of roads and directions such as “east of xyz road” etc. It appears to be updated frequently

Los Gatos fire risk

What is the Los Gatos fire risk? This morning a good friend of mine shared a map app that is very helpful for understanding any California property’s wildfire odds. Buildings are given a color code from blue (for low risk) to dark red (for very high risk). With the fires raging in the Diablo range on the east side (from about Fremont to Gilroy), the Santa Cruz Mountains, and many other areas of the Golden State, some folks are getting nervous – even if their particular property is not close to the infernos or in a particularly dangerous location.

If you do live in the Los Gatos or Santa Cruz Mountains, you do know that the chances of fire are elevated over more densely populated areas.  If your home is close to the hills or large open space that stretches into the foothills, it’s not a surprise that your  risk is increased over those in the flat lands.  What is your Los Gatos fire risk? Have a look at the DefensibleApp website and see what it says about your California location.

 

Los Gatos fire risk map

What’s New? Changes and Re-Openings in Los Gatos

Open Sign NeonSpring has stretched into summer and while closure protocols remain in place, the Town of Los Gatos has been progressively re-opening.

Safe Summer Reading

Socially distant opportunities are ever-expanding. The Town Library is working hard to circulate your summer-reads safely. Residents can now check-out material online with safe patio pick-up for books, CDs, and DVDs. Virtual services include online classes and remote storytimes in addition to the virtual library services already in place.

Summer concerts have gone virtual, too, at least for Jazz on the Plazz.

Back in Business

Unfortunately, increasing virus spread has led to a rollback on opening many indoor services. Outdoors, however, there’s plenty to do!

Back in May the Town Council began work and the April-approved reallocation of $1.9M in surplus to bolster local COVID-19 economic recovery. Some of this has been used to help create the outdoor expansions into temporary parklets.

If you haven’t been downtown recently, it’s all hustle and bustle with the new setup. Patio dining is now available at many of your favorite restaurants. Personal services including hair salons, cosmetologists, nail salons, and barbershops are now also open for business – outdoors and by reservation only. The weekly farmers market is still open for business every Sunday.

While indoor malls remain closed you can still enter shops in outdoor malls or at standalone stores, so window-shoppers, follow the posted rules and enjoy stalking the shelves!

Re-Opening the Outdoors

Los Gatos Collage Re-OpeningTrails and parks remain open with social distancing requirements. Boating on Vasona Lake is open with plenty of safety protocols in place. County parks have yet to reopen playgrounds, water fountains, and group picnic sites, according to their website, so keep that in mind when you plan a Vasona visit. Town parks have reopened some sports equipment (such as tennis courts), and playgrounds, picnic tables, and BBQ areas are all open for use. The Town of Los Gatos is accepting picnic site reservations online again.

To keep track of what’s open and what’s changing in the Town of Los Gatos, check the Town Department Updates page, the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce Open Businesses page, or contact individual businesses for details.

Remember that the best practice is still to remain home as much as possible. When not possible, follow all safety protocols, wear a mask, stay physically distant, and wash your hands often.

Door to door soliciting

Photo of man knocking on front door with information that door to door soliciting in Los Gatos requires a permitIn the town of Los Gatos, door to door soliciting requires a permit per the town municipal code.

The solicitors or peddlers permit may be obtained through the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department only after the applicant has submitted the paperwork, is fingerprinted, and his or her criminal history has been checked.

The application form can be found at the town’s website: Los Gatos Solicitor / Peddler Permit Application

Some peddlers will say that they have a permit, but when pushed may provide a San Jose business license or some other document which not not satisfy the code.

The fine for the first offense is $100 and it rises from there.

If you have a door to door solicitor at your home and believe that the peddler does not have the needed permit, please call the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department at (408)354-8600 to report it.

 

Gas transmission lines in Los Gatos

Where are the gas transmission lines in Los Gatos? Ever since the San Bruno fire, caused by a faulty PG & E gas transmission pipe line, the location of those pipes has been a concern.  The power company now provides a map with that information for the major gas transmission lines. The map actually outlines info for all of Silicon Valley – and the state of California as a whole!

In Los Gatos, those lines are along Winchester Boulevard, Blossom Hill Road, University Avenue, and Roberts Road (on both sides of 17).

Gas transmission lines in Los Gatos
Gas transmission lines in Los Gatos