Why am I subject to inspection?
Sonoma County Code Chapter 13A (Ordinance 6148) regulates hazardous vegetation and combustible materials located on improved (with structures) and unimproved (without structures) parcels that are in unincorporated areas throughout the County.
The Sonoma County Fire Prevention Division, in conjunction with local fire districts, annually conduct approximately 4,000+ defensible space inspections in areas at risk to wildfire. Inspections typically begin in late spring or early summer.
You can see if your parcel is in the inspection area via the property lookup. You can contact County of Sonoma Fire Prevention Division email Veg-Mgmt@sonoma-county.org or phone (707) 565-8875.
How do I know what is required by me as the property owner?
The County of Sonoma Fire Prevention Division provides a brochure or letter to residents in inspection areas, which describes the requirements of Sonoma County Code Chapter 13A, and other useful tips to make your home and landscape more resistant to wildfire. Requirements address fire hazards the “Defensible Space” zone, a radius of 100 feet from the home (or to the property line), and 10 feet from roads and driveways.
In general, requirements include cutting lower limbs of trees and removing or maintaining brushy plants to eliminate “ladder fuels” which fire can use to reach higher into trees or across the landscape. Dead and dying vegetation should be removed from the property. Houses should be kept clear of leaves and other debris.
More Information: Hazardous Vegetation Inspection & Abatement
As a property owner, what is my responsibility?
As a property owner, you have a number of vegetation management responsibilities. As an example, you should plan to remove weeds, tall grass, brush, and tree limbs that pose a fire hazard. Upon inspection, homeowners will receive a Vegetation Management Inspection Report with the results of the inspection.
View an online version of the Vegetation Management Requirements & Recommendations.
Where can I find information on how to meet the Fire Code requirements, and how to pass my inspection?
How do I contact the Sonoma County Fire, Vegetation Management Unit?
Who will be inspecting my property?
Inspections are conducted by inspectors from the Sonoma County Fire Prevention Division or Fire District staff. You can find out if your property is in the inspection area, and who is inspecting via the property lookup.
What happens if my property does not pass the initial inspection?
Property owners who have not removed these hazards by the start of the inspection period will be found non-compliant and will be re-inspected 30 calendar days or more from the date of the initial inspection.
How will I be notified of a re-inspection?
A copy of the inspection report is left at the property location and a copy is mailed to the owner of record.
Is there an appeal process?
Any person who is adversely affected by the Notice of Violation/Order to Abate may appeal the determination to a hearing officer appointed by the county. The request for a hearing must be made in writing and submitted to the enforcing officer within fifteen (15) calendar days of the postmark on the notice/order.
In the event a hearing is requested and the hearing officer appointed by the Board of Supervisors deems the real property to be a public nuisance and orders the county fire chief to abate the hazardous vegetation or combustible material, the property owner will also be responsible for attorneys’ fees, and other costs associated with the hearing and abatement costs.
What do I do if I am not the owner of the property listed on the Notice?
If you received a Hazardous vegetation and combustible material Abatement Notice and you do not own the property listed, please contact the County of Sonoma Fire Prevention Division at email Veg-Mgmt@sonoma-county.org or phone (707) 565-8875. Property owner information is provided by the Sonoma County Assessor’s Office. To change or verify property owner information, contact the Sonoma County Assessor’s Office at (707) 565-1888.
What are the deadlines for bringing my property to compliance after inspections?
If you fail the first inspection, you have 30 calendar days to bring property into compliance.
If you fail the second inspection, you have 15 calendar days to either request a hearing or bring to compliance. If you have a hearing, and are determined to be in violation, then you have 10 business days to bring your property into compliance.
I cut my weeds before the deadline, so why did I still receive an Inspection Notice?
Property owners must maintain their property throughout the year. If a property is cut prior to the deadline, and the growth returns prior to an inspection, then the property could be found in violation. In this case, the property owner would be responsible for the reinspection fee.
Property owners should inspect their properties on a regular basis to check for regrowth, or any new problems, such as dead trees, or items dumped on the property without permission.
I cut my hazardous vegetation and combustible materials after the deadline, and I received an Inspection Notice. Since the weeds are cut now, can the reinspection fee be waived?
The inspection program is “fee based”, and the fees are based on a service that is provided. Since the service (the reinspection) has already been provided, we cannot cancel the related fees.
I want to abate the hazardous vegetation and combustible materials on my property, but who can I hire for this type of work?
County of Sonoma Fire Prevention cannot specify or recommend any particular contractor. Make sure that any contractor you hire is licensed and has current insurance. You can check on the status of any of a Contractor’s License on the California State License Board website.
I cut my hazardous vegetation and combustible materials and pruned my trees. How do I get rid of the cut material?
- Chipping: All of the properties subject to Sonoma County’s hazardous vegetation and combustible material ordinance are eligible for Sonoma County’s Free Chipper Program. We strive to serve as many residents as possible, but the program is limited to available funding and capacity. Requests for this free service have gone up significantly. Wait time for the chipper has increased, and we may be forced to periodically suspend applications to keep up with demand. You can check on chipper status at: sonomacounty.ca.gov/Fire-Prevention/Chipper-Program
To participate in the program, residents cut and pile vegetation according to program guidelines, and Sonoma County sends a chipper and crew to chip the materials. There is no charge for the program, which generally runs from May until October. To participate in the program, see the guidelines at: sonomacounty.ca.gov/Fire-Prevention/Chipper-Program or call (707) 565-6070.
- Yard Waste: Yard waste can be disposed of properly in your household yard waste container, or taken to the Sonoma County Landfill site for recycling.
- Burning: You may be able to burn piles of woody materials during wet months before fire season begins. You need to start by contacting your Air Quality Control agency. Two agencies regulate air quality in Sonoma County, The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District (NSCAPCD) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). You can find out which district you live in at: sonomacounty.ca.gov/Air-Quality
- In the NSCAPCD, vegetation can be burned with a permit on permissive burn days. Contact NSCAPCD for a permit. CAL FIRE may also require a pile inspection, learn before you burn!
- Burning restrictions are more stringent in areas managed by the BAAQMD, so if you are in their area you will may not be allowed to burn vegetation.
How do I report a hazardous vegetation problem?
You can submit a complaint about hazardous vegetation to the County of Sonoma or directly to the local fire agency. To make a complaint to the County, please go to SoCo Report It.
Submit your complaint under the "Residential Vegetation Complaints" section.