Don’t Suffer from Fire Amnesia – Notes from the Wildland Urban Interface

Fire Safety

By the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council

After enduring the kind of wet winter we just did, it’s easy to get amnesia.

Fire amnesia

All those rivers of mud, all those sandbags and those toppled trees can make us forget where we live the other nine months of the year.

That place is the Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI, where the city fades out and the country takes over.

The WUI is where homes intermix with native vegetation, which, when the brush dries out and dry winds kick up, can become matchsticks waiting for a spark.

The Deer Springs Fire Protection District is completely located in the WUI, with deep gorges laced between ridges sprinkled with homes. And nearly all of this is covered with thick chaparral.

There is only one major drawback to living in this type of terrain, and that is the exposure to fire. It’s the yin and yang of living here.

We love its wildness, but we don’t like our homes exposed to such fire danger. What makes it so desirable is also what makes it so risky.

So what should we do about it?

The immediate response is to worry.

But what we really need to do is stay vigilant and take extra precautions to protect our homes and neighborhoods.

One of the best practices is to surround your home with a defensible space buffer.

Defensible space works by reducing the opportunity for a fire to catch, minimizing its chance of spreading from your yard to the walls of your structure, and from there to inside your home. Wildfires are largely spread by flying embers that land on combustible surfaces, expanding the fire and keeping it alive.

A defensible space buffer gives firefighters a clear area to battle insistent flames, should it reach that point.

“You provide the offense and we will provide the defense,” said Nick Brown, a CAL FIRE battalion chief and the Deer Springs fire chief. “We’ll be able to respond to the fire.”

It is good practice, and a Deer Springs Fire District requirement, to clear combustible vegetation within 100 feet of your home. This is typically done in two zones.

Zone one includes the area within 50 feet of any structure. Plant fire-resistant, irrigated landscaping in this zone. Mow and maintain your lawn, weeds and other landscaping. Remove leaf litter from your roof and rain gutters. Trim tree limbs at least 10 feet from chimneys and remove dead branches.

Zone two includes the area between 50 and 100 feet of structures. It is okay to keep native vegetation in this zone, but cut and thin this vegetation so it is no taller than 6 inches. Do not scrape the plants to bare earth, as this promotes erosion. Remove dead and dying vegetation and all combustible vegetation within 10 feet of roadways and driveways. Remove limbs from the bottom one-third of trees, up to a maximum of 6 feet above the ground.

For more detailed information on defensible space, visit the San Diego County’s web page, Fire, Defensible Space, and You, which provides more detailed information.

CAL FIRE also posts information on defensible space on its website,

A version of this article appears in Fire Safety News, a monthly e-newsletter published by the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council. To subscribe go to and click on the “SUBSCRIBE” link.