Defensible Space

Defensible space is the buffer created around one's home to reduce the intensity of an approaching wildfire, eliminate combustible materials and vegetation that might ignite and spread to your home, and to create a safer space to aid in your evacuation and allow firefighters to defend your home. Defensible Space is required by law in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas of Town of Corte Madera and City of Larkspur (and all other cities and towns in Marin).

Your home may be the most valuable investment you ever make. If you live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), protect against the chance of losing that investment by creating defensible space and "hardening" your home with fire-resistant construction materials and design.  In Marin, all residents of the WUI are required by law to maintain defensible space around their homes at all times.

Creating defensible space does not mean you need a ring of bare dirt around your home! Through proper planning, you can have both a beautiful landscape, with lush, green vegetation,  and a fire safe home. 

Learn more about creating Defensible Space at FIRESafe MARIN.

Annual PROPERTY OWNER DEFENSIBLE SPACE NOTIFICATION                      

Dear Property Owner, 

The Central Marin Fire Department provides a thorough and comprehensive vegetation management and inspection program in order to protect lives and property for those who live and enjoy the hillside communities within Larkspur, Corte Madera, and Greenbrae.  The California Fire Code Chapter 49 Sections 4901.1 to 4907.4 as amended and adopted by the City of Larkspur and the Town of Corte Madera, and the California Public Resource Code Section 4291 provides the Fire Department the authority to require property owners to maintain proper defensible space around their home.

On or around April 15, property owners and/or tenants will receive a “Defensible Space” flyer stating that they will need to create and maintain the required 100-150 feet of defensible space around their homes, and within 10 feet of all roadways and driveways by removing dead and/or hazardous vegetation no later than May 1. Undeveloped parcels will be required to maintain 30-100 feet of defensible space along neighboring property lines of properties that have been developed by removing dead and/or hazardous vegetation.

Fire inspectors will begin canvasing the community beginning in May to verify that your property is in compliance. Properties that are found NOT to be in compliance will receive a “Wildfire Hazard Warning Notice” requiring you to abate the hazard within 30 days. Properties found to be noncompliant after 30 days will be deemed a fire hazard and/or nuisance and may be referred to the Town of Corte Madera or the City of Larkspur for abatement.

Any cost associated with abatement may be billed to the property owner. Unpaid abatement costs may be placed as a special assessment or lien against the property.

Ruben Martin
Fire Marshal, Central Marin Fire Department

DEFENSIBLE SPACE REQUIREMENTS

Home

  • Maintain all roofs, gutters, and decks clear of leaves, needles, and dead vegetation.
  • Remove tree branches/limbs that are within 10 feet of a chimney outlet.
  • Remove all tree branches and limbs that overhang within 6 feet (vertically) of a roofline or deck.
  • Remove all vegetation from underneath decks.
  • Remove all combustible storage from underneath decks.
  • Firewood should be relocated to at least 30 feet away from the home or placed in a fire-resistant enclosure.

From the home out 100 to 150 feet or to the property line

  • Cut all dead grasses to below 3 inches in height.
  • Remove all dead vegetation and brush piles on the ground.
  • Remove all dead branches, leaves and foliage from all trees, bushes and ground cover.
  • Remove low hanging tree branches/limbs that are less than 4 inches in diameter a minimum of 10 feet from the ground on mature trees over 30 feet in height, or 1/3 the height from the ground on trees less than 30 feet in height.
  • Remove all fire prone plants located within 30 feet of the home.

Roadway and Driveways

  • Remove all fire prone vegetation within 10 feet of all roadways and driveways horizontally.
  • Maintain a minimum of 15 feet of vertical clearance over roadways and driveways.
  • The following fire prone plant species have been identified as very flammable and/or hazardous. Property owners should remove these plants if they are located within 10 feet of a roadway or driveway, and/or within 30 feet of any structure.
    1. Juniper
    2. Bamboo
    3. Italian Cypress
    4. Acacia
    5. Pampas Grass

Want your home to survive a wildfire? 

Verify that your home has incorporated each of thee 13 steps/features...

Roof

  • The dwelling must have well-maintained Class A roof. Where gutters are present, the roof includes a metal drip edge.
  • For homes with metal or tile roofs, gaps greater than 1/8 inch between roofing and sheathing must be blocked to prevent debris accumulation and ember entry.

Vents

  • Exterior vents (e.g., foundation, gable, under eave, and roof vents) must incorporate a 1/8 inch metal mesh or are designed for flame and ember resistance (Wildland Flame and Ember Resistant (WUI) vents approved and listed by the California State Fire Marshall or WUI vents listed to ASTM E2886).

Fences

  • Any wooden fences that attach to the dwelling structure must incorporate only noncombustible materials (fencing or gating) in the last 5 feet before the attachment point(s) to the structure.

Decks

  • All combustible materials (e.g., grass, shrubs, or stored materials) must be removed from underneath attached wooden decks or stairways and maintained at least 5 feet away from the decks’ or stairways’ perimeters.

Other Attached Structures (arbors, pergolas, trellis)

  • Any other structure that is attached to the dwelling structure must be made of noncombustible materials.

Buildings less than 25 feet from the Dwelling Structure or Attached Decking

  • If another structure (e.g., a dwelling, garage, barn, shed or commercial building) is within 25 feet of the dwelling, the dwelling’s exterior wall that faces the nearby structure must meet a one-hour fire rating and includes noncombustible cladding.
  • Where windows face the nearby structure, the windows must either include dual-paned glass with at least the exterior pane is tempered glass or the windows have deployable metal shutters.

Defensible Space and Landscape

  • There is at least 6 inches of noncombustible clearance between the ground and the exterior siding of the dwelling.
  • Within the first 5 feet of any dwelling or attached decks, no combustible materials (e.g., woody plants, combustible mulch, stored items) are present around the building or deck(s)or below the deck(s).
  • For the landscape from 5-30 feet from structure (or property line if closer), the connectivity of vegetation leading to the dwelling structure has been eliminated. The lower branches of trees have been limbed up at least 6 feet above underlying or adjacent shrubs to eliminate fuel ladder connectivity. The landscaping is irrigated and maintained. Vegetation may be grouped and surrounded by areas of irrigated and mowed grass or hardscaping.
  • For the landscape from 30-100 feet from the structure (or property line if closer), there is separation between shrubs and trees, dead branches and leaves have been removed, lower branches of trees are pruned to curtail the spread of fire and to eliminate fuel ladders.
  • For dwellings on or adjacent to steep slopes (e.g., slopes greater than 35 degrees), landscape mitigation has been extended downslope and beyond the 100 feet perimeter, where possible, to reduce direct flame contact with or preheating of the dwelling or the underside of any decking.

Fire Station 13

Paradise Drive
5600 Paradise DR
Corte Madera, CA 94925

Fire Station 14

Corte Madera: Headquarters
342 Tamalpais Drive
Corte Madera, CA 94925

Fire Station 15

Downtown Larkspur
420 Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, CA  94939

Fire Station 16

Greenbrae
15 Barry Way
Greenbrae, CA  94904

Business Phone: (415) 927-5077   |   Emergencies: Dial 9-1-1

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