The Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District's Hazard Abatement Program is a year-round effort designed to reduce vegetation hazards for the protection of lives and property in the event of a major wildland fire. All residents are required to effectively maintain their properties to the standards set forth in Ordinance 2015-01 for Vegetation Management.
Defensible Space Requirements
A fuel modification zone is required around every building that is designed primarily for human habitation or use or a building designed specifically to house farm animals. Decks, sheds, gazebos, freestanding open-sided shade covers and similar accessory structures less than 250 square feet and 30 feet or more from a dwelling, and fences more than five feet from a dwelling, are not considered structures for the establishment of a fuel modification zone. A fuel modification zone shall comply with the following:
Zone A (first 50 feet from a structure) - When a building or structure is in a hazardous fire area, the person owning or occupying the building or structure shall maintain a fuel modification zone within 100 feet of the furthest project of the structure. The area within 0-50 feet of the structure shall be cleared of vegetation that is not fire resistant and re-planted with ornamental irrigated fire-resistant plants
Zone B (50-100 feet from the structure) - The area between 50-100 feet from the building should have all of the dead and dying vegetation removed, and the native vegetation thinned by 50%. Weeds and annual grasses shall be mowed to a height of 4” to 6”. Any chipping or mulch that is done on site should be spread not to exceed 6” in height. Trees may remain in both areas provided that the horizontal distance between crowns of adjacent trees and crowns of trees and structures is not less than 10 feet.
There is no guarantee or assurance that compliance with these standards will prevent damage or destruction of structures by wildland fire in all cases.
Defensible Space (PDF)
Property owners are required to modify or thin brush, native vegetation, and annual grasses within 20 feet of a public or private access road. We require that all streetscape trees and vegetation be pruned to an acceptable vertical clearance of 13 feet 6 inches in height. We also recommend that trees with intermingled and continuous crowns close to access roads be thinned out. Selection, spacing, and maintenance of trees are critical in high fire hazard areas; this is essential if the roadway is to remain open when fire sweeps through. If vegetation is too close to the roadside, the road can become a tunnel of fire, forcing vehicles to drive in the center. Proper vertical tree clearance allows two-way traffic for evacuation purposes and fire apparatus access; a must during a wildfire!
Vertical Clearance (PDF)
Orchards, Groves or Vineyards
All orchards, groves, and vineyards should be kept in a healthy state and free of combustible debris and vegetation, including dead or downed trees.
- A 10-foot wide firebreak shall be cleared around the perimeter of all orchards, groves, and vineyards.
- All dry grasses, weeds, and mulch shall be removed and disked to bare mineral soil.
- Irrigation throughout orchards, groves, and vineyards is required.
Eucalyptus Forests and Oak Woodlands
All forests and woodlands should be kept in a healthy state and maintained as described below:
They need to be free of all dead, dying or diseased trees (excluding tree stumps no higher than six inches above the ground). If combustible vegetation is located underneath a tree’s dripline, the lowest branch should be at least three times as high as the understory brush or grasses, or ten feet, whichever is greater. This will reduce the build-up of “ladder” fuels. Firewood shall be neatly stacked and shall have a minimum of 30 feet of clearance to any structure. Debris and trimmings produced by the removal process shall be removed from the site, or shall be converted into mulch by a chipping machine and evenly dispersed to maximum depth of six inches.
Eucalyptus Tree Handout (PDF)