The City of Santa Rosa is an ecologically beautiful and diverse city to call home. This scenic landscape comes with its share of challenges, particularly when it comes to the wildland-urban interface (WUI). The WUI encompasses the areas where homes, infrastructure, and communities are built near or within natural vegetation. Santa Rosa, surrounded by picturesque rolling hills and forests, has several neighborhoods that are part of this interface. The proximity of houses and structures to natural areas increases the risk of wildfires and the potential for fire to spread rapidly. The WUI is the transitional zone where human development meets or intermingles with wildland vegetation.
Santa Rosa’s WUIs were identified and adopted by the City Council in 2009 and have been directly threatened and impacted by several wildfires since 2017. By designating these areas as the WUI through a local City Ordinance, it allows us to require construction that offers a higher level of protection from wildfires. Most of the homes in the path of the Tubbs, Nuns, and Glass Fire burn scars were built prior to these regulations going into effect. Homes that were rebuilt in the WUI following the recent fires and that were constructed after the more stringent codes were adopted have been constructed to codes that are designed to help prevent the spread of wildfire to structures. Homes built before 2008 and located in the WUI should be evaluated for improvements that can be made to them.
UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS
In addition to the home itself, the area around the home should be assessed. Preventative measures taken in the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) is another way to limit the spread of wildland fires in the WUI. The HIZ includes the fuels within the 100 ft. to 200 ft. area surrounding the home.
- Fire Hazards: Santa Rosa, like many other regions in California, faces a high risk of wildfires due to a combination of factors, including the arid climate, vegetation patterns, and the prevalence of fire-prone species such as chaparral and grasslands.
- Ember Showers: During a wildfire, embers can travel for miles, landing on roofs, decks, and other combustible materials. This can lead to spot fires that ignite structures even when the main fire is several miles away.
- Fuel Management: Vegetation management plays a critical role in mitigating fire risks. Santa Rosa residents should understand the importance of creating defensible spaces around their properties by removing dead plants, trimming trees, and maintaining a safe distance between vegetation and structures.
- Evacuation Preparedness: Being prepared for evacuation is vital in the WUI. Residents must have an evacuation plan, stay informed about fire conditions, and be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and assemble an emergency kit with essential supplies.
PROTECTING YOUR HOME
- Building Materials: Constructing or retrofitting homes with fire-resistant materials can significantly reduce the risk of fire damage. This includes using non-combustible roofing, fire-resistant siding, non-combustible fencing material at the point of connection with your home, and tempered glass windows.
- Clearing Defensible Space: Create a buffer zone around your home by removing flammable materials like dry leaves, dead vegetation, and firewood piles. Maintain a clearance of at least 30 feet around structures in Zone 0 (0-5 ft) and Zone 1 (5-30 ft).
- Fire-Smart Landscaping: Utilize fire-resistant plants, maintain proper spacing between trees and shrubs, and regularly prune to reduce the accumulation of dead or dry material.
- Firebreaks and Barriers: Installing firebreaks or hardscaping features such as stone walls or gravel paths can help interrupt the spread of fire and protect your property.
Use our Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Area Address Look Up Tool to search for an address to find out if it is in the City’s WUI and use our Property Owner Resource Library at SRCity.org/WildfireReady and review our Firewise Communities: Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Hazards article and other related links to make your home and HIZ wildfire ready.