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Fire Clearance Outside the Village

VMS staff works year-round with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) to create and maintain “defensible space”—a practice to combat wildfires, especially in the wildland-urban interface. Defensible space reduces the risk of fire spread and provides firefighters a safer space from which to defend a threatened area.

In the Village, defensible space is divided into two landscaping areas: wildland and interior. The goal in wildland areas, adjacent to gates 9, 10 and 11, is to remove vegetation adjacent to Village boundary walls. The protected land adjacent to the Village is managed by the Nature Conservancy. Staff works with OC Parks and the conservancy to access the land and perform mandatory wildlife studies, enabling VMS to remove a 30-foot band of vegetation directly adjacent to the walls to create defensible space. This work is scheduled for June.

Over the past two years, staff has been working with OC Parks and the conservancy to increase this defensible space to 100 feet. The conservancy agreed, with some environmental and wildlife mitigation requirements in place. OC Parks is working on the mitigation plan and will submit it to staff once it is complete.

The second concept of defensible space is fuel reduction, or selectively thinning and pruning plants to reduce the combustible fuel mass of the remaining plants. This practice, which breaks up continuous, dense and uninterrupted vegetation, is being used on interior slopes. Ground cover is cut to 12 inches, shrubs are reduced to 2 feet and tree skirts are raised to 7 feet. This work, under contract with Mission Landscape, is completed twice a year.

Staff recently met with OCFA, which annually inspects all landscaping within high fire-risk areas, or fire hazard severity zones (FHSZ), which are determined by Cal Fire and changeable over time. View Village zones here.  

This year, OCFA is requesting Village landscaping to begin fire hardening within red FHSZ, which are mostly in gates 10 and 11. As crews work their way through these parts of the Village, they will perform the following new tasks mandated by Cal Fire to reduce the fire threat: reducing shrub height under windows to 2 feet below the sill, removing leaf growth from the lower 1 foot of shrubs, and reducing tall shrub height to maintain a 4-foot clearance below roof eaves.

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