Wildfire | What Is Zone 0?

New fire risk reduction requirements protects homes and fire fighters

April 2023. By FormLA Landscaping Staff: Most landscape enhancements add delight or convenience to daily living. The creation of a “Zone 0” is no exception – yet it can also have dramatic impact on safety. Here’s what we understand about the latest fire risk reduction requirement.


Where is Zone 0?

The California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection defines Zone 0 as the 0-5 feet closest to a home at ground level. They describe it as the “ember resistant zone,” where materials like gravel and cement encourage embers to burn out before they can build enough heat to ignite a home. In the photo above, the Zone 0 is the off-white concrete band closest to the home’s foundation.


Why do I need a Zone 0?

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety research shows that wind-driven embers are responsible for more than 90 percent of home ignitions. They can ignite a home while leaving hydrated foliage intact, as our homes are often made of and surrounded by highly flammable man made materials. An effective Zone 0 reduces the chances of home ignition by removing opportunities for embers to build heat near a home.

The benefits of a Zone 0 extend beyond a single home. Every home with an ember resistant Zone 0 amplifies the safety its neighbors, as home fires cast more dangerous ember storms than fires burning natural materials.

Fire fighters have another reason to require a Zone 0. This is the area they need to safely defend a home that has ignited. To protect them as they protect properties, this zone will be free of trip hazards as well as flammable materials.


When do I need to have a Zone 0?

The deadlines for establishing a Zone 0 vary between new and established homes. Your home’s location will also factor in. More communities are required to take fire risk reducing actions this year, and deadlines range from April 1 to June 1. Here is the full scoop from LA County Fire Department.

Enforcement of the new zone requirement will begin in 2024 – but implementation now could provide critical enhancements going into the 2023 wildfire season.


Which materials are allowed in a Zone 0?

At the ground level 0-5 feet from the home, ember resistant materials (gravel, concrete, stone, etc.) and well-irrigated low growing foliage, including natural lawns, are allowed.

Beyond ground level, well-irrigated, well-maintained, non-woody foliage is allowed. Mature, living tree trunks, canopy, and foliage can be within 0-5 feet, as long as they are 6 inches from siding and 10 feet from the roof.


Which materials are not allowed Zone 0?

At the ground level 0-5 feet from the home, mulch and synthetic turf must be removed, as well as unirrigated foliage. Each of these materials can ignite and allow embers to build heat against the home.

Above ground level, detached storage, fences and gates, and woody foliage pose dangers and should be removed. Decks are considered part of the home – Zone 0 includes any under-deck area as well as 5 feet from the deck.

Some items require assessment and ongoing homeowner attention. These include awnings, furnishings, outdoor kitchens, portable BBQs, pet homes, garbage and recycling receptacles, and vehicles.


What does a Zone 0 look like?

We know what you are thinking – don’t worry! We’ve got you! An effective Zone 0 doesn’t need to 0-out your curb appeal or lifestyle. In fact, it can be an opportunity to enhance both when its materials complement the architecture and take your daily lifestyle into consideration. See More Examples

How much will it cost to create a Zone 0?

The cost of creating a Zone 0 depends upon the circumference of a home, its current Zone 0 contents, and the ember-resistant materials chosen. The Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) is currently offering grants to cover the creation of free Zone 0s in specific LA-area communities.


Tell me about the grants!

The grants offered by the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains:

  • Support eligible Wildland Urban Interface communities in the District,
  • Include a free home ignition zone evaluation to help prioritize home retrofits,
  • Cover a free Ember Resistant Landscape Upgrade to Zone 0 excluding the home,
  • Will be designed and built by FormLA Landscaping,
  • Will inform the scope of work and available materials,
  • Have a May 1 application deadline, and
  • Require all work to be done the last week of June.
    FormLA Landscaping has no role in the application evaluation or selection processes.
    We currently understand RCDSMM will:

  • Award within eligible areas,
  • Prioritize applications where there is both social and fire vulnerability, and
  • Encourage neighbor-groups to apply together, as it amplifies the impact of upgrades.

    Sources and Resources

  • California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection: Zone 0 Requirements
  • RCDSMM’s DefensibleSpace.org: Step by Step Wildfire Defense
  • RCDSMM: Free Home Ignition Zone Evaluation
  • RCDSMM: Free Zone 0 Upgrade Application
  • YouTube: Tour RCDSMM’s Fire Resilient Home
  • KRCR (ABC 7): Hidden Danger: How Embers Move Wildfires
  • Univision 34: The Fire Resilient Garden