wildfires defensible space

This photo illustrates how defensible space can protect properties during wildfires.

The town of Cave Creek will be hosting two green waste drop-off events to support the community in creating defensible spaces on their properties.

The first event will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Cave Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, 4300 E. Carefree Highway. 

After wildfires ripped through the town twice in 2020, which firefighters say was fueled by dry vegetation, the town is encouraging residents to be vigilant about clearing their properties and managing invasive plants.

“The town is looking to support the citizens in their effort to clean up their properties and enhance their defensible space,” said Mike Baxley, the Cave Creek building and fire safety official.

“It is really imperative to clean within five feet of the property.”

Baxley explained that defensible space is essentially different zones on a property that are designed to decrease fire behavior through strategic landscaping.

When creating a defensible space, the immediate zone is a 5-foot radius around a home or structure that is cleared of all vegetation, dead plant matter, loose lumber and household debris. The intermediate zone is 5 to 30 feet from the farthest exterior part of the home where native grasses and plants should be trimmed to a maximum of height of four inches, trees should be spaced 18-feet apart if possible, and fire breaks should be integrated. 

The extended zone is 30 feet and beyond, and in this area homeowners should be mindful to not let flammable plant material accumulate and make a cleared space at the base of saguaros.

“So, if we do have a fire then it lays down and does not burn,” Baxley said. “There were some prime examples during last year’s fires that properly had defensible space.”

He said defensible space played a key role in saving some homes during the East Desert and Ocotillo fires. A big key in creating defensible space is managing invasive weeds such as stinknet and grasses that grow in abundance after the rains and spread prolifically.

“This would be a great time to get out and knock down any vegetation sprouting and apply pre-emergent,” he said.

He added that town staff will come out to residents’ homes to help them determine how to clear the properties correctly for making a defensible space by calling town hall’s main line and setting up an appointment.

Residents will be able to drop-off green cuttings only at the events such as weeds, leaves and branches, and there is no weight limit. Trailers with plant waste will be accepted as well, but participants are expected to unload their own debris in the designated area. Household and construction waste will not be accepted.

Everyone will need to come prepared with proof of residency by either providing a utility bill, mail or drivers license. The next drop-off will be from 8 a.m. to noon March 20, at the same location.

Residents can visit the town’s website at cavecreekaz.gov for more information about defensible space and the town’s fire restriction stages by going under the fire safety tab.