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The Ember Threat and The Home Ignition Zone

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What are the primary threats to homes during a wildfire?

Living within City limits, we are not typically threatened by wildfires.  But after recent firestorms in California, it's very apparent that urban areas are also at great risk during a firestorm.  

Research around home destruction vs. home survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of homes ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris and other objects.

The City of Santa Cruz has adopted  REQUIREMENTS FOR WILDLAND-URBAN INTERFACE FIRE AREAS.  If you live in a WUI zone, these requirements will affect you:

NEW Requirements for Wildland Urban Interface Fire Areas

WUI Building Construction Requirements:

2019 California Fire Code, Chapter 49 & 7A

  • Local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) established high fire hazard severity zone (CWPP)
  • References 2019 California Building Code, Chapter 7A
  • References California Residential Code, Section R327
  • Applies to all new construction and all new materials used for remodels and construction.
  • Includes fire or flame resistant roofing material, roof vent coverings/screens, exterior siding, skylights, windows, doors and decks
  • Applies to accessory structures on the same property
  • Fire exposure and acceptance criteria for fire resistance specified in SFM, NFPA, ASTM and/or UL

WUI Vegetation and Fuel Management Requirements:

2019 California Fire Code, Chapter 49 & Section 4291

  • Local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) established high fire hazard severity zone (CWPP)
  • References Public Resources Code, Section 4291
  • Fuel management begins 100 feet from the structures(s) with the first 30 feet requiring the most intense management
  • Remove trees/branches that extends within 10 feet of the outlet of chimney/stovepipe
  • Maintain vegetation adjacent to overhanging of a building
  • Maintain the roof of a structure free of leaves, needles or other vegetative materials

See WUI maps below to determine if your property is in a WUI zone.  If you still are not sure please email or call the Fire Prevention Technician, Kelly Kumec, at or 831-420-5284

 Is your property in the WUI?  Click Here For Maps



The Firewise USA Website of the NFPA provides Wildfire Risk Reduction Steps to make your home safer during a wildfire.  

You can also download How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires.