Public Resources Code 4291 requires homeowners in Mountainous, Forest, Brush and Grass Covered lands to develop defensible space by removing ladder fuels within the first 100 feet of a structure, or to the property line. Defensible space creates a buffer between the home and oncoming fire, while providing a safer place for firefighters to combat the fire and defend your home.
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To dramatically increase the likelihood your home will survive a wildfire, to provide firefighter safety during a firestorm, and to aid in the protection of lives, the Nevada County Hazardous Vegetation Abatement Ordinance requires homeowners to maintain one-hundred (100’) feet of defensible space around all structures located on an improved parcel. Property owners are also responsible for maintaining defensible space along roadways which are necessary for the ingress and egress.Click to read the full Hazardous Vegetation Abatement Ordinance.
The County’s ordinance encompasses all of the same regulations found in Public Resources Code 4291, but also addresses hazardous vegetation and combustible material abatement beyond the property line of a parcel on which a building and structure is located in order for property owners to achieve their 100 feet of defensible space.The County’s ordinance also contains hazardous vegetation maintenance requirements for private roadways in the unincorporated areas of the County that are not included in Public Resources Code 4291.
When a neighboring (Adjacent) parcel prevents a homeowner (Improved Parcel) from achieving their 100 ft of defensible space, Nevada County’s Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance enables the homeowner seeking 100 ft of defensible space assistance achieving it. Property owners are responsible for all costs associated with achieving their 100 ft of defensible space on their own property. In addition, when a property line interferes with a homeowner’s ability to achieve this 100 ft of defensible space, the homeowner is responsible for half of the cost of clearance which takes place on the neighboring parcel. The ordinance states: “The Owner, occupant or other person in control of the improved parcel shall be responsible for fifty (50%) percent of the abatement cost on the adjacent parcel if the owner of said adjacent parcel consents in writing to the abatement.” (Sec. G-IV 7.4 Paragraph C. # 2)
We recommend starting neighbor to neighbor. If there is a concerning parcel in your neighborhood, start by talking to the property owner or collaborating with existing efforts through Firewise Communities. Your neighbor may already be working with the Firewise Community to resolve the issue. Inviting a neighbor to learn more often yields the best results. The Ready, Set, Go! Handbook and ReadyNevadaCounty.org provide good resources for best practices and local requirements for creating safer, more fire-resistant properties, and evacuation routes.
Private road owners are required to maintain free of ladder fuels a minimum of a ten (10’) foot wide strip of land beyond the shoulder of a roadway serving as primary ingress and egress to the parcel, to a height of fifteen (15’) feet along the boundary of a Parcel.
You may file a request for Defensible Space Inspection online here.
Upon the first inspection, a Hazardous Vegetation Notice to Abate letter will be mailed to the property owner explaining the violation(s) and instructions on how to bring the property into compliance. Upon the mailing date of the Notice to Abate letter, a property owner will have a minimum of thirty days to rectify the violation(s). After the initial thirty (30) days, a second inspection will be performed. If the property continues to lack defensible space, a Warning Letter will be mailed explaining the violations and how to fix these issues.Upon the mailing date of the Warning Letter, a property owner will have fifteen days to comply. At this point, a third inspection is conducted. If a property is noncompliant after the third inspection, a progressive fee schedule may be assessed by way of Administrative Citation against all noncompliant properties. A noncompliant property on the third inspection will be assessed $130, a noncompliant property on the fourth inspection will be assessed $700, and a noncompliant property on the fifth inspection will be assessed $1,300. Fees are cumulative. Cases in which properties are noncompliant after the fifth inspection may be referred to Code Enforcement for abatement. Expenses associated with abatement, including administrative costs, may be made a special assessment added to the County assessment roll and become a lien on the real property, or be placed on the unsecure tax roll.
Nevada County Defensible Space Inspectors assigned to the Office of Emergency Services will inspect a home for violation(s). All inspectors are in County approved uniforms and supplied with a County ID badge that has their photo, employee number, and the office to which they are assigned. Inspectors drive County vehicles.
Yes. Any person who receives a Notice to Abate may appeal by delivering a written request for a hearing to the Clerk of the Board’s Office within ten days from the issuance of the Notice to Abate, along with payment of the appeal fee. The written request shall include a statement of all facts supporting the appeal. See Ordinance Section G-IV 7.9 Appeals Process for further clarification.
The Office of Emergency Services cannot recommend a defensible space vendor, however, the Fire Safe Council maintains a vetted list of vendors on their website at https://www.areyoufiresafe.com/vendors. If you find a vendor outside of the Fire Safe Council’s vetted list, confirm the vendor you hire has a valid state license issued by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). You may verify their license is valid on the State’s online contractor license verification tool: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx. Vendors with a CSLB will be experienced, bonded, and insured.
The Office of Emergency Services and Fire Safe Council actively pursue grants which seek funds to assist low-income homeowners and those with Access and Functional Needs. Please also see below for additional resources.CAL FIRE California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP): The purpose of the California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP) is to encourage private and public investment in, and improved management of, California forest lands and resources. Cost-share assistance is provided to private and public ownerships containing 20 to 5,000 acres of forest land. Cost-shared activities include: Pre-commercial thinning or release, pruning, follow-up (includes mechanical, herbicide and/or slash disposal follow-up, and more.
Fire Safe Council of Nevada County’s Access and Functional Needs Program (SNAP Program) which serves low-income and individuals with access and functional needs is currently accepting applications for their waiting list. Currently, no grant funds are available, however residents are encouraged to apply. When funds become available those on the list will be served first.
Fire Safe Council of Nevada County’s Chipping Program: Once you are done creating defensible
space around your home and roadway, the Fire Safe Council can help you process your green waste. Submit a request for assistance online, and the Fire Safe Council will help you chip your green waste for free. To ensure service to all applicants, service is limited to 4 hours, per customer, per application.
Fire Safe Council of Nevada County’s Defensible Space Advisory Program: Are you ready to create defensible space, but need some guidance to get started? One of the Fire Safe Council’s specially trained volunteer Defensible Space Advisors will meet you at your home to help you assess your wildfire risk and provide insights on how to make your home more resilient to wildfire. This service is free.My Sierra Woods: Through local partnership, My Sierra Woods helps provide funding and support to qualified landowners to protect our beautiful forests and to restore conditions family forest lands throughout northern California.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): NRCS has a unique cost-share program, known as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP provides financial incentives to farmers, ranchers and timberland owners that apply approved conservation practices on their properties. NRCS helps to defray the costs by 50-75%. Typical practices in Nevada County include forest thinning and pruning, conversion of brush fields to timber land or range and pasture, irrigation system efficiency improvements, improving livestock distribution through fencing, and wildlife habitat. Since 1997 NRCS has distributed $4.6 million to landowners in Nevada County.
USDA Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants in California: Also known as the Section 504 Home Repair program, this provides loans to very-low-income homeowners to repair, improve or modernize their homes or grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards.