FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make my neighborhood and community more prepared for wildfire?

  • Learn: Learn about wildfire mitigation best practices from credible sources. (1) Sign-up for list-serve, (2) Follow us on Facebook: Yuba Fire Safe Council, Yuba Watershed Protection & Fire Safe Council, (3) Attend meetings, (4) Review the Fire Safe Council’s website.
  • Lead by example: Make sure your property meets city or state codes for defensible space and home hardening, and also National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or FireWise USA recommendations.
  • Listen then share: Listen to neighbors’ concerns fire and otherwise. Ask what do you think of your wildfire risk? Share how you achieved defensible space and fire resistant home successes.
  • Collaborate on a common goal: Often evacuation routes and personal safety are the first common agreement among neighbors. Share that you are worried about your neighbors’ lives and your family’s. Use common ground to collaborate on clearing evacuation routes, becoming a FireWise USA certified community, or other goal.
  • Give the gift of fire preparedness: Offer assistance or coordinate assistance for your neighbors and neighborhood for evacuation route and defensible space clearance or home hardening.
  • Work beyond your neighborhood: Attend Fire Safe Council meetings to learn more, and lobby local and state officials for wildfire mitigation.

How can I learn more about wildfire mitigation in our region?

How can I volunteer?

What are my rights and responsibilities as an owner/landlord or tenant/renter to have defensible space?

It is the homeowner’s responsibility to keep the property up to code. In compliance with CA Code 4291

The owner may put something into a rental agreement but ultimately, the responsibility falls on the property owners. Renters have the right to ask for compliance from the homeowners. An inspection may be requested from local CalFire departments.

How is the removal of overgrown fields and forests on private property enforced?

Current state codes only regulate 100 feet around structures or until property boundary in State Responsibility areas, and Cal Fire is responsible to uphold these regulations. There are no Yuba County codes that increase fire preparedness, but these do exist in many other counties. There are no codes that regulate along evacuation routes or comprehensive vegetation management on a parcel. Other counties require clearance along evacuation routes and allow 100 feet of defensible space regardless of property boundaries.

It is worth noting that your home’s survival depends most on what you’ve done to harden it and make your landscaping defensible space rather than an overgrown vegetation more than 100 feet away. Your actions protect the house from ember intrusion, direct flame contact, and radiant heat from nearby fuels.

What can I do about out-of-the-area owners who do not clear evacuation routes or maintain defensible space?

If you know the individuals, politely alert them that the property does not meet current code requirements or is a concern to you through a phone call or letter. There are state codes that regulate 100 feet of defensible space or to your property boundary. There are no state or local codes that regulate evacuation route clearance on existing properties in Yuba County although these exist in many other counties. New buildings have evacuation route requirements throughout the state.

If you are uncertain who to contact, you can also find the property owner’s mailing address from Yuba County Tax Assessor’s website. If you are uncomfortable communicating with them, are uncertain who owns the property or your initial attempts of education did not work, you can file a code complaint with your local fire department. The owner will be sent an educational letter noting what they need to do to meet code. Please note, code enforcement is complaint driven.

Can a house survive a wildfire?

Completing wildfire mitigation on structures can make it much more likely that they will survive a wildfire, but there is always a chance of loss. Homes need many defenses for wildfire. They need to be protected from embers (6+ hours) and the fire front (direct flame contact and radiant for 20 minutes). Therefore a coupled strategy of a fire resistant structure and defensible space is necessary. The key is design, materials, and maintenance. Maintenance is the most overlooked component of fire resistant structures. Much research has been completed since and the latest recommendations have not been integrated into California’s policy yet. Follow recommendations from FireWise USA and the National Fire Protection Association: 0-5 ft. no fuel near structure; 5-30 ft. lean, clean, and green; 30-100 ft. reduced fuel. See https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire

Does defensible space mean everything must go?

No, defensible space is not 100 feet of “clear-cutting” or the removal of all vegetation. The goal of defensible space is to slow how quickly a fire moves, reduce radiant heat that could catch a structure on fire, reduce flames near structures, and reduce fuel beds for embers near structures. Creating defensible space involves reducing and removing plants and other fuel near the structure so that their flames or radiant heat cannot catch it on fire, and to create fire resistant spaces between islands of plants to reduce how quickly flames move. Close to the house, within 5 ft., national recommendations are to remove all fuel (trash cans, plants, mulch, brooms, etc.). Further away from the house from 5 to 30 ft., maintain lean, clean, and green landscaping. From 30 to 100+ ft. away from you house, reduce fuels. Learn more.

Is there a list of plants that resist fire?

All plants burn. Some may burn hotter or are easier to ignite than others, but ANY plant that is within 5 ft. of your structure and/or poorly maintained is a threat to your structure’s survival. Plants that are highly flammable or burn hot, like manzanita or eucalyptus, can be part of a defensible space, but they must be further from house, isolated from other vegetation and fuel, and well maintained (limbed-up; clear the ground around them of mulch, leaves, or fuel; remove dead material removed regularly; etc.).

Are factory built fire resistant vents worth the money?

Installing 1/8” wire mesh blocks far more embers than ¼” vents that were standard building construction in California, and are a good first step and should be done if you cannot install a factory- built vent right away. While 1/8” wire mesh is much cheaper than factory-built vents, it does not perform as well.

Factory-built vents, like Vulcan and Brandguard, reduce the embers even more than 1/8” screen, and these vents also block flames from entering the attic or basement. You may be able to mitigate the potential for flames near your house by removing plants and other fuel within 5 ft. However, if there are buildings within 25 or 35 ft., then there is potential for flames to enter thru vents and installing factory vents is much more likely to reduce the chance of structure loss.

No matter what type of vent you have, it is important to reduce or remove all flammable items stored in your attic or under the structure.

How can I protect my large windows from wildfire?

Windows break from radiant heat from fuel (deck, wooden fence, shrubs, mulch, and such) burning near them. The National Fire Protection Association and FireWise USA recommend double pane and tempered glass windows to withstand radiant heat. To increase their ability to withstand radiant heat, remove vegetation in front of windows and nearby following recommendations from The National Fire Protection Association and FireWise USA. Once vegetation has been removed, there may still be threat from other nearby structures that can be partially mitigated with shutters. Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety recommends that shutters “can be made from ¼-or ½-inch plywood, and should be cut to size and labeled (for each window) in advance to allow for easier and quicker installation when a wildfire threatens. Take the time to pre-install the anchorage system.”

How can you best remove unwanted plants like Himalayan blackberry, tree of heaven, brooms, etc.?

UC Integrated Pest Management program has science-based resources for removing pests. They have removal fact sheets for common foothill pests like Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom, and many more. 

Which land management activity will have the largest impact on reducing fire risk?

All treatments need to be used to tackle California’s wildfire problems. It will be a matter of deciding which treatments are appropriate for the vegetation type, parcel, the owner, and the local community. Treatments could include animal grazing, lop and scatter by hand, pile burning, broadcast prescribed fire, timber harvest, and herbicide. In grasslands, prescribed fire and animal grazing remove similar types of fuel e.g. grass. In shrublands and forests, fire removes small woody fuel and conifer needles fuels better than most treatments however, some forests may need pre-fire treatments to make the resilient to fire and reduce safety risks.

Who regulates private landowner’s right to burn?

Pile and broadcast prescribed fires are regulated by the Feather River Air Quality district year-round and Cal Fire during declared fire season. Yuba County does not regulate outdoor burning directly.

How can burns be completed on private lands?

Options include:

  • Prepare properties for fire with NRCS EQIP cost-share program.
  • Burn property thru Cal Fire Vegetation Management Program, a private contractor, write a grant to fund work with nonprofit contractor, or work with neighbors to burn small areas with low fuel levels.
  • Contact the Yuba-Bear Prescribed Burn Cooperative to learn more about their efforts in Nevada, Sierra, and Yuba Counties by emailing their coordinator, Jamie Ervin (jamie@sierraforestlegacy.org).
  • Attend UC Agriculture and Natural Resources workshops to learn more.

What material should I trust for recommendations for fire preparedness?

The current outreach leaders for fire resistant structures and landscaping are National Fire Protection Association, FireWise USA, and the Insurance Institute for Home Safety; please look for their materials from the last 3-5 years. If a new publication discounts something you read in the past, it is likely that the past technique was found not to be helpful. As we have more fires, we learn more and our recommendations are evolving. Please regularly check for new recommendations. One great framework to follow is from the National Fire Protection Association’s Defensible Space guidelines.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety the leading researcher in this field and has many wonderful science-based like the California Retrofit Magazine.

Please note that the California regulations regarding construction and defensible space are from more than 10 years ago as of 2020, and are outdated. Cal Fire’s materials are often based on state law rather than the best scientific recommendations, and not the best source of information for fire resistant homes or defensible space yet.

Cal Fire and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have good information for evacuation.

What is the Yuba Watershed Protection and Fire Safe Council?

The Yuba Watershed Protection and Fire Safe Council fire awareness program is designed to educate the residents of Yuba County on the dangers wildland fires pose to them and their communities. The program also provides specific steps each person can take to protect themselves, their family and their neighbors should a wildfire occur.

Who was responsible for initiating and currently continuing the Fire Safe Council?

The Council was initiated through the efforts of former County Supervisor Hal Stocker. The program has continued through the combined efforts of County Staff, UC Farm Advisor’s office, the area federal, state, and local fire departments, local timber farming companies, professional foresters and the citizens and environmental groups that are participants. Funding has been by grants obtained through Council participants’ efforts.