Protecting Your Home From a Wildland Fire

General Suggestions

If you live in a rural area like West Sonoma County, California, it is not a matter of if, but when your house will be threatened by a wildland fire. Here are a few steps to help you prepare for that event. For more detailed suggestions view the links section below.

  • Make sure that your house insurance is current for current property valuations.
  • Photograph or video your possesions and keep a copy at work or in your safety deposit box.
  • Make a fire safety plan for your family and property.
  • Have an address sign to your home at the street with 4" reflective letters. Have additional signs if needed at forks in any private roads. These are usually available from your local fire department for a very nominal fee.
  • Have a fire extinguisher inside your house in the kitchen.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are operational and change the batteries each year.
  • Have a water-type fire extiguisher outside on your deck. An example is a metal "Indian Pump" (holds five gallons) that is about $170 new and can often be found used for less on eBay. You can also search for "water fire extinguisher" on eBay to find a used 2.5 gallon pressurized water fire extinguisher (about $50-60 including shipping) that is pressurized with an air compressor.
  • Remove dead combustible materials from your roof and gutter regularly.
  • Make sure your chimney has a spark arrestor on it.
  • Remove any dead branches overhanging your roof or within six feet.
  • Keep all branches at least ten feet from your chimney.
  • Do not store combustible under your deck or within six feet of your home.
  • Starting at the exterior of your home or deck, work outward removing dead material and reducing the amount of combustible vegetation. The law now requires a minimum of 100 feet of "defensible space". Follow the guidelines in the links section below. Always have a water source available when working with power tools on the vegetation.
  • Break up continuous vegetation within your defensible space.
  • Limb up trees to about ten feet within your defensible space.
  • Mow grasses before they die. Work only in the cool damp morning and not in the hot afternoon. Keep a water supply close by. Every year there are a number of local vegetation fires started when mower blades hit a rock and the spark sets the grass on fire.
  • Keep all firewood piles at least 30 feet from your home.
  • Support your local fire department, especially if it is volunteer.

Links to Fire Safety Information

Fire Safe Sonoma -

Read about the Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Download a pamplet: "Living With Fire in Sonoma County". Read about the Sudden Oak Death Fuels Mitigation Project and meetings.

National Interagency Fire Center -

Protecting your home from wildfire: some helpful hints for homeowners living in the wildland/urban interface.

Colorado State University Extension -

"Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones" plus links to fire resistant landscape ideas, forest home fire safety ideas, homeowner preparations, an annual fire safety checklist, and more.

Firewise Community -

A list of resources for a homeowner including a fire hazard assessment, firewise checklists, firewise around your home, and more.

College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley -

"Homeowner's Survival Guide". It includes quick fixes, long-term steps, pre-fire planning, saving your home by staying during a fire.

Home Firefighting Systems & Equipment -

A list of preparation steps to prepare your home. This company also offers firefighting equipment for sale. This link is for informational purposes and should not be considered an endorsement of this particular company's products. There are other companies that offer similar products.

Calfire -

Download the "Homewner's Checklist" in a pdf format.