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Defensible Space

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What is Defensible Space?

Defensible space is the area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where vegetation has been modified to reduce the wildfire threat. Defensible space is simply a homeowner’s properly maintained backyard. Use the information below as a guide. For more advice on defensible space, visit Living with Fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin or refer to the Lake Tahoe Fire Adapted Communities booklet.

Refer to the Defensible Space Inspection form  for more detailed information that will be covered during the evaluation. Another important component to creating effective defensible space is to ensure the built environment, as well as the non-combustible area of your home, is free of fire hazards. Please refer to the Home Vulnerability form  that may be included if needed, during the defensible space evaluation. For more information on home hardening please refer to the Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide.

If you need to authorize a representative on your behalf, please complete the Authorization for Representation by Agent form.

To schedule a defensible space inspection, see below: 

  • For construction or STR related inspections, schedule HERE
  • For all other defensible space requests, schedule HERE

Step 1- Know Your Distance

The recommended distance of defensible space is different for all homes. The types of vegetation and terrain are key factors when deciding how far out to extend the Defensible Space Zone. Most properties need 100-200 feet of defensible space.

Step 2- Remove the Dead

Within the Defensible Space Zone, remove all dead vegetation including dying trees, shrubs, grass, weeds, fallen branches, thick accumulations of needles and leaves, etc. Remove fallen needles and leaves within 30 feet from the house every spring, and don’t allow a depth of more than 3 inches of depth beyond 30 feet from the house.

Step 3- Create Separation

Areas of dense vegetation pose significant wildfire threats. Thin dense tree and shrub stands to allow for more separation between continuous fuels.

Step 4- Remove Ladder Fuels

Vegetation allowing fire to climb up from the forest floor to the canopy, are known as ladder fuels. Smaller vegetation such as shrubs and young trees should be cleared away from beneath larger trees.

Step 5- Lean, Clean, and Green

Within 30 feet of your home, remove fuels that ignite easily such as dead shrubs and trees, dried grass, pine needles, firewood, etc. Create a 5-foot non-combustible zone around the perimeter of your home, and keep your landscaping well-maintained.

Additional Resources:

Please reference our Defensible Space Evaluation form  to review items that need to be addressed prior to any tree marking. Contact information for tree removal and defensible space specialists can be found here: 2021 Tree Service List, 2021 Landscaper List.

Construction Projects:

A defensible space inspection is required for all projects requiring a Washoe County Building Permit. Refer to NLTFPD Defensible Space Requirements for Construction Projects 2020  and the Building and Permitting Guidelines Updated Feb 28 2019 before submitting plans for review.

 2024 Chipping Defensible Space Flyer