Save Your House from a Wildfire

(Courtesy MOFD)
This shrub is in compliance with the fire code. It is placed two feet from the structure and there is one foot of clearance from the ground to the leaves. Note the pebbles next to the wood siding.

    If we have learned anything from watching the Caldor fire march toward homes and businesses in Lake Tahoe, it is that the most dangerous part of a modern wildfire is the ember cast.
   Despite all the fabulous fuel mitigation by Moraga Orinda Fire District (MOFD) around the perimeter of Orinda, a wildfire will send embers a mile or more ahead, landing in receptive fuel beds like dead leaves piled on the roof of a home or the combustible mulches or shrubs lining the home’s perimeter.
   No one will be there to put out this fire because we will have evacuated. Firefighters will be on the front lines. Ember cast is exactly how most structures were destroyed this fire season.
   After serving for 28 years, Gorden Graham, the Fuels Mitigation Manager for MOFD, knows the best way to beat ember cast is to harden your home. Of the 1,939 home inspections done so far in 2021, the most common violation, according to the fire code found on MOFD’s website (, regards the non-combustible zones required around structures: “Remove all combustible ground cover within 2-feet of a structure to include mulch and bark. Create at least a 1-foot air gap between the ground and lower portion of bushes, privets and other decorative plants within 2-feet of structures.”
   The fire code also requires people in the district to “maintain the roof of any structure and roof gutters free of leaves, needles or hazardous vegetation and other combustible materials.” If your roof catches on fire, it is highly unlikely your home will be saved.
   While many people are actively reducing the fuel around their home, MOFD is experiencing a push-back by residents who feel it is a burden to do this work. They are ignoring or unaware of the fact that the threat of a wildfire is a community issue.
   The pile of leaves on your roof or the brush close to your home may well destroy your home and the homes of other Orinda residents.
   Taking care of leaves and brush is much easier and less expensive to do than other fuel mitigation! You’ll then realize there’s a couple of other things you can do and before you know it, your home will be hardened.
   Hint: make sure your home has fire resistant vents made by a company like Vulcan or Brandguard, which prevent embers from getting into the walls. UC Cooperative Extension’s website ( explains this well.
   Firewise proclaims that whether we like it or not, we are interdependent in our struggle to become a fire-adapted community. Do your work and talk to your neighbors; call MOFD at 925.258.4599 to find out what you can do; and join or start a Firewise group today!

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