As monsoon season begins, conditions in Arizona remain dry and the risk of fire remains high.

To protect structures from becoming potential fire losses, Pima County’s Development Services Department (DSD) has released a set of guidelines to highlight the need for “defensible spaces” around structures, free of flammable items such as leaf piles and dry grass. These spaces are essentially buffer zones between the building and any materials that might help the fire to spread.

“The idea is to keep potential fires contained, so they don’t spread from private property to wilderness areas,” said Tom Drzazgowski, Chief Zoning Inspector. The guidelines recommend removal of buffelgrass and other invasive plants but protect native plants which are naturally fire-resistant.

The guidelines are based on the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code. Within Pima County, the code is only legally enforced on Mt. Lemmon, but other property owners near wilderness areas may find the guidelines useful for increasing fire safety near their homes.

“In light of the continuing drought here in Arizona, the chance of wildfire is increasingly likely,” Drzazgowski said. “We hope property owners especially near open space and wilderness areas will keep these guidelines in mind, whether or not the code legally applies to them. It’s up to all of us to do what we can to minimize the risk of wildfires.”

To read the defensible-space guidelines, visit

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