Saratoga is one of the 6 communities in Santa Clara County with zones designated as Very High Fire Hazard Severity by CAL FIRE. This page describes the City's efforts to plan for and prevent wildfires.
Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)
The Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area of Saratoga is at the greatest risk for wildfire. The WUI covers roughly half the City, covering the western hillsides of Saratoga. This part of the City is subject to special regulations and requirements due to the fire risk. The City works closely with Santa Clara County Fire Department and the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council to help provide information and resources to property owners in the WUI.
WUI Requirements & Protective Measures
The City has adopted special fire protection measures and planning requirements for these areas of the City, in accordance with recommendations from CAL FIRE. this includes requirements that must be met before development occurs and ongoing property maintenance requirements, such as reducing flammable vegetation and maintaining defensible space.
Defensible Space Checklist
Creating and maintaining defensible space around your home can help prevent wildfire. Defensible space serves as a buffer to slow or stop the spread of wildfire. A checklist to help you create your defensible space is below. For more information, visit the Santa Clara County Fire Department website.
Zone 1 (within 5 feet of your home)
- Clean gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles
- Move flammable material away from your home
- Block off areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent the accumulation of debris
Zone 2 (5-30 feet from your home)
- Remove all dead plants, grass, and weeds
- Trim trees regularly to keep branches at least 10 feet from structures and other trees
- Remove branches that hang over your roof
Zone 3 (30-100 feet from your home)
- Mow your lawn down to a maximum height of 4 inches
- Trim shrubs and trees so that branches are off the ground and not touching other plants
- Ensure your home can be easily accessed by emergency responders
Weed & Brush Abatement
In Saratoga, there are two programs that help protect Saratoga from wildfire by reducing potential fuel, like weeds and brush. These programs are the Weed Abatement Program managed by the City of Saratoga and the Brush Abatement Program (Wildland Urban Interface Preparedness Inspection) managed by the Santa Clara County Fire Department.
All properties in the WUI are subject to Brush Abatement requirements. Properties throughout the City are inspected annually for compliance. Properties that fail to meet program requirements may be subject to fees, including the actual cost of removing flammable vegetation, and City Code violations. All properties in the City, regardless of location, are subject to Weed Abatement requirements.
Defensible Space Tree Removal Regulations
Trees subject to a Tree Removal Permit on properties within the City's WUI may be removed if the property is compliant with defensible space standards and if the tree is within 100 feet of a structure and creates an increased wildfire risk that cannot be addressed through maintenance. Trees removed under this rule before the end of 2020 are not subject to replacement tree requirements.
Work with your neighbors to reduce wildfire risk for the entire community by becoming a Firewise Community. This designation is awarded by the National Fire Protection Association to neighborhoods that work together to prepare and protect their homes. Some insurance providers offer special discounts to Firewise Communities. The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council offers free coaching to neighborhoods interested in earning the Firewise Community designation.
Home Ignition Zone Inspection
Under the City's agreement with the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council, property owners in the WUI can receive a free Home Ignition Zone Inspection. A trained representative of the FireSafe Council will walk your property for up to 60 minutes and share recommendations for defensible space and home hardening.
The FireSafe Council offers free chipping for property owners in the WUI to help encourage the community to create and maintain defensible space on their property.
Special Needs Assistance Program
The FireSafe Council can provide free support for older adults and individuals with disabilities who need assistance establishing and maintaining defensible space. Contact the FireSafe Council for additional information.
Dead Tree Removal Rebate Pilot Program
Properties in the City's WUI are eligible to receive a rebate of up to $1,000 per residence to cover costs associated with the removal of a dead tree. The rebate program is being administered by the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council through an agreement with the City.
Rebates will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis until program funding is expended. A Home Ignition Zone Inspection and free Tree Removal Permit are required. Contact the FireSafe Council to learn more.
- City of Saratoga WUI: Residents can check the WUI Map (PDF) to determine if their home is located within the WUI.
- Dead Tree Removal Permit: To receive a free permit to remove a dead tree, complete the tree removal permit PDF application then submit the completed application along with photos documenting the condition of the tree(s) to Christina Fusco by email or mail. The application may also be left in a dropbox outside of the Community Development Department, located at 13777 Fruitvale Avenue, Saratoga CA 95070.
- Home Ignition Zone Inspection: Sign up for a Home Ignition Zone Inspection on the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council website to learn more about defensible space and home hardening recommendations for your property.
Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
In 2013, the City and the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council (SCFSC) partnered to educate residents about wildfire prevention, as well as provide free resources, such as chipping of brush and limbs cleared from defensible space for residents living in the Wildland Urban Interface area. The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council is a non-profit organization composed of individuals and public and private sector organizations that share a common, vested interest in preventing and reducing losses from wildfires.
Wildfire Task Force
The City of Saratoga Wildfire Public Safety Task Force was created in February 2019 to advise the City Council on matters related to wildfire and emergency preparedness for a limited-term ending in November 2020. The Task Force meets on the 1st Monday of alternating months at 6:00 p.m.
Wildfire Risk Mitigation Policies
Given the potential for wildfire in Saratoga, the City has worked to identify fire-related hazards in the City of Saratoga and measures to mitigate these potential risks.
- City of Saratoga Safety Element (adopted February 20, 2013)
The Safety Element helps guide development in the City of Saratoga in a manner that effectively addresses potential hazards, including wildfire, and includes strategies for reducing risks associated with specific hazards.
- Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) (adopted August 1, 2018)
The CWPP identifies specific wildfire risks in the City of Saratoga and strategies for minimizing those dangers. Since Saratoga is served by two separate fire protection agencies that operate independently of the City, the CWPP calls for a collaborative that includes Santa Clara County Fire, the Saratoga Fire Protection District, other local fire agencies, the City, the County and other local government organizations, and local non-profit partners.