DEFENSIBLE SPACE IS THE BUFFER AROUND A HOME where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the wildfire hazard. Creating defensible space increases the chance of home survival and provides a space for firefighters to safely defend the home during a wildfire event. Adequate defensible space does not require complete removal of the home’s surrounding vegetation. Removal of all vegetation is not good for ecosystem health and can often lead to an increase in invasive weeds and grasses (such as cheatgrass). In this guide, you can learn about how to create an aesthetically pleasing and safer landscape that can reduce the impacts of wildfire on your home. In this guide, we provide defensible space recommendations for sagebrush ecosystems and pine-dominated ecosystems.

WE REFER TO DEFENSIBLE SPACE AROUND A HOME IN THREE DISTINCT ZONES. These zones are useful to remember when making a defensible space plan. We provide different recommendations in each zone regarding the types of acceptable plants and ground cover, distance between vegetation, and overall maintenance. Defensible space planning varies based on your ecological setting, the surrounding vegetation and prevailing winds. Fire moves more rapidly with strong winds, so it’s important to consider which part of your property aligns with prevailing wind patterns. The illustration is divided into two ecosystems: the left shows the sagebrush ecosystem, and the right shows a pine-dominated ecosystem. This guide is a helpful tool to plan your defensible space, but it does not replace the expert advice that an in-person defensible space inspection can provide. For information about a free defensible space inspection, contact your local fire agency.

Zone 0

Ember-Resistant Zone | 0-5 Feet

Ember-Resistant Zone | 0–5 feet Remove woodpiles; wood mulch and other combustible mulch; junipers, sage and other high-fire-hazard plants; dead leaves; pine needles; and weeds. Use hardscaping, such as gravel, decomposed granite, rock, concrete, brick or pavers. No plants are fireproof, but if you must have plants in this zone, favor plants that are low growing and nonwoody with high moisture content. Understand that wildfires can occur during the fall and winter. During those seasons, plants become dormant, contain less moisture and can burn easily.

defensible space zones

Zone 1

Lean, Clean and Green Zone | 5-30 Feet

Lean – Reduce the flammable vegetation to a small amount, if any. Ensure discontinuous islands of vegetation. Mulch can be used, but not in a continuous, widespread manner and should be surrounded by noncombustible options, such as decomposed granite or irrigated lawn. Clean – Remove all dead or flammable debris. Avoid mass plantings of shrubs and trees. Green – Keep plants healthy and irrigated (when possible). If located in a pine-dominated ecosystem, remove all pine needles once in this zone in the spring. Needles can accumulate during the colder fall and winter months.

Zone 2

Reduced Fuel Zone| 30-100 Feet

Eliminate all dead or dried vegetation. If living in a pine-dominated ecosystem, don’t allow pine needles on the ground to exceed 3 inches in depth. Create separation between shrubs or small groups of shrubs and trees. Remove ladder fuels, or low-growing vegetation that promotes fire from the ground to the tops of trees.

For the complete guide, use the link below to download the PDF version.

Roice-Gomes, J., Restaino, C., Kay, M. 2023, Living With Fire Defensible Space Guide, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-23-07

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Also of Interest:

The Governer of Nevada signing a multi-state proclamation with support of Nevadans around him.
Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month County Proclamation Wording
Customize your county proclamation in support of Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month- May 2020.
Roice-Gomes, J. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP-20
Fuel Management Terms for Homeowners
Fuel Management Terms for Homeowners
Smith, E. 2005, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno

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