California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Website:
"In January 2005 a new state law became effective that extended the defensible space clearance around homes and structures from 30 feet to 100 feet. Proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of your house surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a wildland fire."
California Public Resources Code (PRC 4291) REQUIRES that homeowners
provide defensible space for firefighters. The problem is, that PRC 4291
has only an infraction clause (not a misdemeanor or felony clause) that
institutes a $100 to $500 dollar fine associated with it for homeowners
who violate it regardless of a first, second, or a third citation.
CA PRC 4291
4291. A person that owns, leases, controls, operates, or maintains a building or structure in, upon, or adjoining any mountainous area, forest-covered lands, brush-covered lands, grass-covered lands, or any land that is covered with flammable material, shall at all times do all of the following:
(a) Maintain around and adjacent to the building or structure a firebreak made by removing and clearing away, for a distance of not less than 30 feet on each side of the building or structure or to the property line, whichever is nearer, all flammable vegetation or other combustible growth. This subdivision does not apply to single specimens of trees or other vegetation that is well-pruned and maintained so as to effectively manage fuels and not form a means of rapidly transmitting fire from other nearby vegetation to any building or structure.
(b) Maintain around and adjacent to the building or structure additional fire protection or firebreak made by removing all brush, flammable vegetation, or combustible growth that is located within 100 feet from the building or structure or to the property line or at a greater distance if required by state law, or local ordinance, rule, or regulation. This section does not prevent an insurance company that insures a building or structure from requiring the owner of the building or structure to maintain a firebreak of more than 100 feet around the building or structure. Grass and other vegetation located more than 30 feet from the building or structure and less than 18 inches in height above the ground may be maintained where necessary to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. This subdivision does not apply to single specimens of trees or other vegetation that is well-pruned and maintained so as to effectively manage fuels and not form a means of rapidly transmitting fire from other nearby vegetation to a dwelling or structure.
(c) Remove that portion of any tree that extends within 10 feet of the outlet of a chimney or stovepipe.
(d) Maintain any tree adjacent to or overhanging a building free of dead or dying wood.
(e) Maintain the roof of a structure free of leaves, needles, or other dead vegetative growth.
(f) Prior to constructing a new building or structure or rebuilding a building or structure damaged by a fire in such an area, the construction or rebuilding of which requires a building permit, the owner shall obtain a certification from the local building official that the dwelling or structure, as proposed to be built, complies with all applicable state and local building standards, including those described in subdivision (b) of Section 51189 of the Government Code, and shall provide a copy of the certification, upon request, to the insurer providing course of construction insurance coverage for the building or structure. Upon completion of the construction or rebuilding, the owner shall obtain from the local building official, a copy of the final inspection report that demonstrates that the dwelling or structure was constructed in compliance with all applicable state and local building standards, including those described in subdivision (b) of Section 51189 of the Government Code, and shall provide a copy of the report, upon request, to the property insurance carrier that insures the dwelling or structure.
(g) Except as provided in Section 18930 of the Health and Safety Code, the director may adopt regulations exempting structures with exteriors constructed entirely of nonflammable materials, or conditioned upon the contents and composition of same, he or she may vary the requirements respecting the removing or clearing away of flammable vegetation or other combustible growth with respect to the area surrounding those structures.
No exemption or variance shall apply unless and until the occupant thereof, or if there is not an occupant, the owner thereof, files with the department, in a form as the director shall prescribe, a written consent to the inspection of the interior and contents of the structure to ascertain whether this section and the regulations adopted under this section are complied with at all times.
(h) The director may authorize the removal of vegetation that is not consistent with the standards of this section. The director may prescribe a procedure for the removal of that vegetation and make the expense a lien upon the building, structure, or grounds, in the same manner that is applicable to a legislative body under Section 51186 of the Government Code.
(i) As used in this section, "person" means a private individual, organization, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation.
4291.1. (a) Notwithstanding Section 4021, a violation of Section 4291 is an infraction punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100), nor more than five hundred dollars ($500). If a person is convicted of a second violation of Section 4291 within five years, that person shall be punished by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250), nor more than five hundred dollars ($500). If a person is convicted of a third violation of Section 4291 within five years, that person is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500). If a person is convicted of a third violation of Section 4291 within five years, the department may perform or contract for the performance of work necessary to comply with Section 4291 and may bill the person convicted for the costs incurred, in which case the person convicted, upon payment of those costs, shall not be required to pay the fine. If a person convicted of a violation of Section 4291 is granted probation, the court shall impose as a term or condition of probation, in addition to any other term or condition of probation, that the person pay at least the minimum fine prescribed in this section.
(b) If a person convicted of a violation of Section 4291 produces in court verification prior to imposition of a fine by the court, that the condition resulting in the citation no longer exists, the court may reduce the fine imposed for the violation of Section 4291 to fifty dollars ($50)