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:
- Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (see legislative info on the state website here)
- Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Area – where risk comes into urban areas (see FEMA info on WUI)
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.
What about unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno?
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.