Defensible Space Inspectors

Department: CAL FIRE

Program Description: Defensible space coupled with home hardening is essential to improve a home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. By removing flammable vegetation and material around a home, defensible space provides a safe space for firefighters to defend a home and reduces direct flame and heat on a home during a fire. The CAL FIRE Defensible Space Inspection Program has been in place for more than 60 years. 

Inspectors not only enforce California’s defensible space rules, but the inspectors also work with residents to help them understand what specific steps they need to take to create defensible space for their home. Wildfire resilience funding is essential to the program and adds inspectors to CAL FIRE’s base program of nearly 95 Defensible Space Inspectors for 3 months each fiscal year. 

Program Impact: In 2022, the legislature tasked the Board of Forestry to enhance and deploy the defensible space laws to include the new ember-resistance zone within the first 5 feet immediately surrounding the home. 

Outreach and education to homeowners about these new standards has been crucial to helping homeowners implement the new requirements on their property. With the importance of defensible space inspections and home hardening assessments increasing, this funding allows CAL FIRE to hire each Defensible Space Inspector for a full 9-months, the maximum amount allowed for a temporary help Forestry Aide position. Coupled with other funding, CAL FIRE has added an additional 24 permanent Forestry Technicians and 28 Limited-term Forestry Aide positions to the field.

Resilience in Action: Statistics showed that during the 2022 Oak fire in Mariposa County, homes which were compliant with defensible space standards were 6 times more likely to survive an advancing wildfire. CAL FIRE inspected 83,714 homes for defensible space in 2021 and 194,176 in 2022. This number is a great representation of what additional resources can accomplish. By working the seasonal Defensible Space Inspectors for a full 9-months and adding permanent staff, CAL FIRE more than doubled the properties inspected. This engagement with homeowners gives them the opportunity to learn about the importance of defensible space and home hardening, and how to implement those mitigation strategies for their particular property. It also allows the property owner to ask a fire professional about other wildfire preparedness measures to take. It cannot be underestimated how important it is to have one-on-one in person collaboration between the property owner and the Defensible Space Inspector. 

CAL FIRE Defensible Space Inspectors discussing defensible space and home hardening with homeowner.