Fire inspectors stress importance of defensible space

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SAN MARCOS, Calif. – Over three years after the Cocos Fire burned hillsides and threatened homes in San Marcos, experts said the homes that survived the wildfire had clear cut defensible space.

San Diego County is in year-round fire season and firefighters are kept busy. They warn that the rainy spring and hot summer – there's an abundance of dry brush throughout the region.

San Marcos firefighters were out in neighborhoods Tuesday discussing the importance of defensible space.  They were at homes and talked about what is required, and how to improve the chances of saving a home if a wildfire sparks in and around a neighborhood.

During the defensible space audits, fire inspectors like Randy Hill make recommendations to homeowners on how to improve or maintain defensible space.

Homeowners are required to clear their property of dry brush, landscaping and even construction materials.  In California, there must be 100 feet of clearance, but in San Marcos it’s 150 feet.

In 2014, several homes were spared because the homeowner took the time to maintain space around their home. Hill reminds people that it's something everyone is responsible for and should do year round – especially for those living in an area where there is natural vegetation.

“When a fire does hit, sometimes it can hit in May sometimes it can hit in October. It’s important to maintain that defensible space so your house has an opportunity to survive a wildfire,” Hill said.

Fire inspections are free of charge and if a homeowner is not home when the inspection is scheduled, they'll mail the report to them.

Homeowners can use the following tips to help homes survive a wildfire:

  • Maintain 150-feet of defensible space around all structures (100 feet for homes built prior to 2005).
  • Clear all needles and leaves from roofs, eaves and rain gutters.
  • Trim tree branches 6 feet from the ground.
  • Use trimming, mowing and power equipment before 10 a.m.
  • Landscape with fire resistant and drought tolerant plants that require little water.
  • Remove branches away from roofs and 10 feet from the chimney.
  • Keep wood piles and flammable materials at least 30 feet from the home.
  • Use fire ignition resistant building material.

For more emergency preparedness information, visit or call the San Marcos Fire Department at (760) 744-1050, ext. 3410