We almost lost our home in the WUI/Wildland-Urban Interface in the big Sonoma county fires last October. 1 in 3 Americans live in the WUI.
I recently attended two excellent workshops the UC-Extension/Master Gardeners sponsored.
I was pretty familiar with the idea of defensible space (but only haphazardly followed the principles) before. But the real “take home” message from these workshops, repeated over and over: Start from your home and work out. The concept of “home hardening” or making it more resistant to ignition from blowing embers or radiant heat may actually more important than defensible space. Many homes literally burned from the inside out as small embers entered the attic space via the undereave vents and ignited the attic space. I saw this firsthand last year and after the Redding fires….ash piles of burnt homes surrounded by green trees and lawns.
YOu can download an excellent PDF about home hardening complete with excellent pictures here: www.firesafesonoma.org/main/docs
It is critically important these 6 features should be constructed of Class A (fire resistant) building materials. Especially fencing! Wrought iron, decorative metal, stucco, brick, CMUs, etc.
Nothing flammable within 5 feet of house perimeter: this means no vegetation (even well watered greenery), trellis, wooden fences, shade structure, etc.
Once you get your home hardened and the first five feet cleared of anything flammable, this website has great ideas/landscape plans/ pictures of what a fire safe landscape looks like.
There is even a pdf on what to do on redflag warning days (high wind/high temps/low humidity days).
Once you build it, you gotta maintain it! I am an avid gardener, and even I was way behind on the needed work so well outlined above by Matt. Here is an expanded list http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Firewise_Landscaping/Yard_Maintenance/
I have spend part of every weekend this past year: trimming, thinning, pruning, clearing, relocating plants. We have cut down two trees, are planning on replacing portions of our wooden fence with metal and are investigating how to retrofit our vents with 1/8″ screens and cover our wood deck in ceramic tile.
I think this is vital part of prepping if you live in the WUI. Even the East coast, so wet now, could swing back to drought at folks there be at risk for wildfire.