Frequently Asked Questions–Defensible Space

What is Defensible Space?

A Defensible Space is an area around a building in which vegetation, debris and other types of combustible materials have been treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of fire both to and from the building.  Defensible Space work typically includes removing dead/dying trees, excessively dense trees, raking pine needles and removing limbs around buildings to create a “bubble” around your home which better protects it from the threat of fire.

Do I have to get rid of all my contiguous brush?

No.  Brush must be removed under trees and around homes.  The exact distance these need to be cleared depends on your HOA rules and what is compliant for that area.  Truckee Tahoe Fire Department and CAL-Fire recommend 30 feet of clearance around your structure.

Do you need my Compliance/Inspection form?  

Yes.  If you have an Inspection Form of any kind we need to have it to better define the scope of work for the quote. Examples include, but are not limited to: Truckee Fire, CAL-Fire, Tahoe Donner Compliance, and/or other types of Insurance Inspection/Violation Forms, etc.

Do you address Insurance Violations?

Yes.  If you provide us with the inspection report from your insurance company we will provide you with a quote to address those deficits.  

If you are in the Compliance Zone this year in Tahoe Donner, or in a different HOA, we need to have these reports to define the scope of work for the estimate.  This also applies if you have a Cal Fire, Truckee Fire, or insurance inspection form(s), etc.

Are you going to take all of my pine needles down to the dirt?  

No, we leave a thin layer behind for erosion control.  We will only remove pine needles down to the dirt in areas directly surrounding your structure(s).  Wet and decomposing pine needles are not as much of a fire danger and help to provide erosion control, keep the dust down and retain moisture in the soil.

How long will my job take?  

Most jobs usually take less than 1 day to complete.  If we need specialty equipment or are working on a large area, it could take longer.

Do you off haul all debris?  

Yes, we offer this as a standard part of our service.  Wood chips or log rounds can be left behind at your property upon request.

Why does that tree need to be cut, it looks healthy?

Due to years of fire suppression, trees have become overgrown and excessively dense which can lead to a serious fire hazard.  Healthy trees are often removed to thin areas of excessively dense trees and to create clearance between the canopies of other trees.  This thinning provides the remaining trees with enough separation to limit the spread of a potential forest fire as well as the needed space for healthy individual growth.  Healthy trees are better able to survive drought and disease, including bark beetle infestation.  Another reason healthy trees are removed is to create a defensible space around homes thereby improving their chance of surviving a wildfire.

Do I need a Special Permit to remove a tree on my property?

It depends on where your property is located and the size of the tree.  The Town of Truckee requires homeowners to have a special permit to remove any tree over 24 inches in diameter. Tahoe Donner’s HOA requires homeowners to have a permit to remove any tree, living or dead, over 4 inches in diameter.  (Fines for removing a tree without a permit in Tahoe Donner starts at $1000 and goes up from there.)  If you are developing your empty lot to build a home you will need a Timberland Conversion Permit from CAL-Fire.  Please check with your HOA to verify their policies and procedures prior to removing any trees.

Do you remove the stumps from all trees cut?  

This depends on the size of the tree and homeowner preference.  We currently do not offer stump grinding, so most stumps are left in the ground, protruding just above grade.

Do I need to be at my home when you perform the work? 

No, you do not need to be home while we work, but you are more than welcome to do so.

Do you need access to water or access into my house?  

No, we do not need access to water/power or the interior of your home while we are working at your property.

Can I do some of the work on the bid myself?  

Yes, but this needs to be coordinated before the quote is signed.  We will only guarantee Compliance on work that our crew performs. 

What do I do with my firewood?  Do you provide and/or install tarps to make my firewood stack compliant?

In general, firewood must be stacked away from the home. (The exact distance depends on your HOA and Truckee Fire’s Requirements.)  Fire rated tarps can be installed by Elements Mtn. Co. and will be included in your estimate upon request.

What are the specific requirements for Tarps covering firewood?

Tarps must be Fire Rated, 16 mil. thick, cover completely on all 5 sides, all of the way to the ground so no sparks can get under them, and must be secured with non-flammable materials. Tahoe Donner requires that any firewood located within 30 feet of the home be tarped.  Truckee Fire also requires that pine needles be removed from 10 feet around wood piles. Tarps can be installed by Elements Mtn. Co. and will be included in your estimate upon request.

How do you determine the price on my quote?  

Defensible Space estimates are subjective.  Your quote is based on hazards, number of items that need to be completed, number of hours to complete them, the amount of debris that needs to be off-hauled as well as the proximity of homes/other structures and the topography of your property.

Will you split my round for firewood?  

At this time we do not offer this service.

How quickly will I receive my quote? 

We work through bids as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  We prefer to have quotes back within 3 business days, once we have the necessary forms & information.  We will also provide a more accurate time frame on your bid acknowledgment email.  Having copies of any necessary inspection forms in a timely manner greatly increases our ability to get you an estimate as quickly as possible.  


Tahoe Donner Compliance Zone Specific

What are some of the main failures / go backs after work is complete?

  1. Wood rounds left on property.  Many times these are left behind at the homeowner’s request.  However, according to Tahoe Donner’s HOA Code of Conduct and Rules & Regulations, rounds are not allowed on your property.  All rounds must be split into firewood and stacked according to their Forestry Department’s requirements. (Stacked at least 30 feet away from any structures.  Or covered with a fire rated tarp if the wood is stacked within 30 feet of the home. See our FAQ about Tarps for more info.) Your property cannot pass the Compliance Re-inspection with rounds on the property
  2. Old/Outdated compliance sheets.  Nature and your trees/brush change over time.  Newly dead trees or things missed on initial inspections can still hold up a passing report.  We reference the Inspection report date we are working from to avoid confusion after the fact.
  3. Will NOT PASS With Dead Trees.  Tahoe Donner’s Forestry department will give a property a passing grade if they find a dead tree on the property.  In some cases trees can die relatively quickly.  If you notice a “new” dead tree on your property please let us know so we can update your estimates to include these in the scope of work.