Defensible Space

Defensible Space

Defensible Space is the buffer an owner creates between their structure(s) on their property and the ground cover, shrubs, trees or any wildland area that surrounds it.  This created buffer helps to protect and increase the chance of the building’s survival from a wildfire.

The State of California requires owners of “real property” to maintain defensible space “at all times”.  Thus, whether you are a residential/commercial owner or an association, your properties are required to have defensible space.

Every year, the Northstar Fire Department performs inspections between the months of May-October to enforce defensible space compliance. When the Northstar Fire Department performs inspections, we seek to enforce State, County and Local statutes.  (To review the various statutes see “Codes and Ordinances”.) From those statutes or ordinances, there are specific requirements required to be met by the property to meet defensible space compliance.  For Northstar Community Services District Defensible Space Requirements:

Defensible Space Inspection Items

Please schedule an inspection of your property prior to the start of any defensible space work.  The inspector will go over all items to be completed and will mark trees and vegetation required to be removed. To request for a defensible space inspection, please click on the following link:

Defensible Space Inspection Request

“Home-hardening” is another means to protecting your structure from a wildfire. Besides providing a defensible space buffer, owners should choose appropriate building materials and design features that will increase the resistance to ignition from wind-blown embers. Several home-hardening suggestions and concepts are provided in the following links:

Tahoe Living with Fire

Home Hardening

WF_California_Northstar

A signed Right of Entry (ROE) is needed for the Northstar Fire Department to make entry onto an owner’s property to perform a defensible space inspection.  To review and/or print a copy of Northstar Fire Department’s Right of Entry (ROE), click here:

ROE Authorization

Northstar Community Services District’s ordinance 35-19 requires the sellers of real estate to have a defensible space inspection performed prior to the close of escrow. Likewise, buyers of real estate must sign a defensible space disclosure form acknowledging that they have reviewed the inspection form. For information and forms regarding Defensible Space Requirements for Real Estate Transactions, click here:

Real Estate_Defensible Space_ Buyer Disclosure form-- REV 1-17-20 - For Use

Real Estate_Defensible Space_Disclosure form-- Supplemental

Property owners can find a list of Approved Defensible Space Contractors here:

2019 Approved Defensible Space Contractor List

Determining Plant and Tree Spacing

Have you ever wondered how the fire department determines the number of bushes or trees that must be removed from your property?

The spacing between shrubs and trees is crucial to reducing the spread of wildfires. The spacing needed is determined by the type and size of brush and trees, as well as the slope of the land. For example, a property on a steep slope with larger vegetation requires greater spacing between trees and shrubs than a level property that has small, sparse vegetation.

Vertical Spacing

Remove all tree branches at least 6-15feet from the ground.

Allow extra vertical space between shrubs and trees. Lack of vertical space can allow a fire to move from the ground to the brush to the treetops like a ladder.

To determine the proper vertical spacing between shrubs and the lowest branches of trees, use the formula below.

Example: A five foot shrub is growing near a tree. 3×5 = 15 feet of clearance needed between the top of the shrub and the lowest tree branch.

Horizontal Spacing

Horizontal spacing depends on the slope of the land and the height of the shrubs or trees. Check the chart below to determine spacing distance.