As a surfer, each year I anxiously await the Santa Ana wind season and the perfectly groomed waves that exist during Santa Ana wind events. While the winds are a blessing to our beaches they have a tendency to wreak havoc on land. As Santa Ana season begins, the haunting images of the 2014 San Diego Firestorm are still very fresh in my mind. In May of 2014 a swarm of wildfires erupted throughout North County. Severe Santa Ana Wind conditions combined forces with historic drought conditions and an intense heat wave to create an ideal environment for multiple blazing infernos. During the Firestorm, there were approximately 20 wildfires with eight major fires burning simultaneously. When the embers finally cooled there was a swath of approximately 29,388 acres of scorched earth, 55 destroyed structures and more than $60 million in private property damages and firefighting expenses.
The Firestorms of 2003, 2007 and 2014 remind San Diegans of that there is an abundance of wild land tinder anxiously awaiting a spark. The 2014 wildfires exemplified the importance of a well-maintained defensible space. Properties with a well maintained defensible space often escaped the wrath of the fire while other structures in the area burned. In the Cocos Fire, CSU San Marcos and numerous nearby structures were able to avoid significant damage due to the lack of fuel load in the defensible space.
WHAT IS DEFENSIBLE SPACE?
Defensible Space is the area around a structure where combustible vegetation must be reduced or replaced. This space acts as a barrier between a structure and an advancing fire. The County of San Diego amended an ordinance that requires residents to keep their property free of fire hazards: including certain vegetation types, green waste and rubbish. Fire Resistant Vegetation
HOW TO MAINTAIN THE DEFENSIBLE SPACE
- Plant fire-resistant, irrigated landscaping in the first 50 feet of the 100 feet from your structure. These plants need to be maintained all year around. Company structures . Note: no irrigated, or non-native landscaping is allowed within an open space easement.
- Trim plants in outer 50’ of defensible space to no more than 6” in height
- Do not remove or disturb the existing plant root system to prevent any future erosion.
- Remove dead and dying vegetation.
- Trim trees that overhang or touch your structures.
At Heaviland Landscape Management we are responsible for maintaining defensible space areas in numerous home ownership associations, municipal and commercial properties. In the summer months we are especially busy with brush abatements and fuel load reduction projects. We collaborate with local fire department officials to make sure we are compliant with fire regulations and master plans. In hot dry regions of the County we rent water trucks to ensure that any equipment related fire sparks are immediately extinguished. We train our crews to understand equipment related fire prevention techniques and each season we provide native plant identification trainings so that we can better manage sensitive habitat areas. To ensure the safety of our crews, each year we invest in snake bite prevention boots that are built to withstand the strike of a venomous rattle snake. We are also experienced with planting design in fire prone areas and we have developed the list of fire safe drought tolerant plants. We also frequently refer to the Fire-Resistant California Friendly Plant List created by The Metropolitant Water District of Southern California Friendly Plant List
Fire is a natural part of native Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral ecosystems in San Diego County. It is important to recognize this fact and proactively manage your landscape’s fuel load. For more information on this important topic please visit the following websites:
For help with your commercial landscaping, contact Heaviland Landscape Management today or complete the web form on the right side of this page.