SoCo Adapts - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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General Program Information
SoCo Adapts is a pilot program designed to help you protect and improve your home's and community's resilience to wildfire through free Defensible Space and Home Wildfire Risk Assessments, community workshops, and rebate incentives. There are 14 areas in the pilot program throughout Sonoma County, and all program opportunities are available in each area. The program aims to help residents understand, prioritize, and complete wildfire risk-reduction projects and inspire them toward positive action.
SoCo Adapts has two phases:
During Phase 1, free Defensible Space and Home Wildfire Risk Assessments occur across all program areas. Phase 1 will be complete by the end of 2023.
We will launch an Interest Survey at the end of Phase 1, asking those interested in the rebate program to fill out a very brief questionnaire about your project idea. This critical survey will help us secure funding from FEMA for the Rebate Program (Phase 2). The survey will launch soon; sign up for email updates.
Phase 2 is expected to begin in late 2024, dependent on FEMA's release of funding. When the rebate program launches, likely in 2025, Property Owners will be eligible for a rebate of up to $10,000 (rebate amount is subject to change) to accomplish priority defensible space/vegetation management and home hardening/Ignition Resistant Construction (IRC) projects suggested by SoCo Adapts Assessments. Please sign up for updates so we can notify you of program updates and deadlines.
SoCo Adapts is funded by the County of Sonoma and FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Permit Sonoma developed and manages the pilot program; it is not part of a code enforcement program.
You can check your eligibility for the program in our SoCo Adapts Parcel Eligibility Lookup.
I'm in the program areas but don't know how to sign up for a Defensible Space Assessment or a Home Wildfire Risk Assessment. How do I sign up?
If you live in the program areas, you will automatically receive a free Defensible Space Assessment and do not need to sign up. If you did not receive a Defensible Space Assessment Report or would like to request an assessment or a reassessment, please contact us at WildfireAdapted@sonoma-county.org or phone (707) 565-8575 and include your name, mailing address, and Assessors Parcel Number (APN) in your request.
If you live in the Wildfire Adapted program areas, you are eligible for a free Home Wildfire Risk Assessment, and you must sign up to receive this benefit. You can sign up by confirming your eligibility in our and then clicking the link to schedule your assessment. Free Home Wildfire Risk Assessments are available only for a limited time. Sign up now!
If you are not in any of the program areas, many resources still available to support you in preparing your home for wildfire season. Learn more at Resources, Education, and Preparedness.
If you are interested in having your neighborhood included in future pilot program expansions, please contact us at WildfireAdapted@sonoma-county.org to let us know.
Defensible Space Questions
Defensible Space is the 100-foot area (or to the property line, whichever comes first) around your home. Three zones make up Defensible Space.
- Zone Zero is from your home's exterior walls out to 5 feet.
- Zone One is from 5 to 30 feet.
- Zone Two is from 30 to 100 feet (or to the property line).
The closer to the home, the higher the risk! You can read more about Defensible Space at ReadyforWildfire.org or set up a time to meet with an SoCo Adapts assessor to learn directly about vulnerabilities around your home.
During a Defensible Space Assessment, a fire professional visits your home to assess vegetation and other fire hazards within a 100-foot radius around the home. These assessments provide information about essential risk-reduction techniques that can help reduce your home's potential for ignition. A Defensible Space Assessment report is customized to your property so you can understand and prioritize the recommended changes. The assessment aims to help you know how to lessen wildfire risk on your property and pass a defensible space inspection, should you receive one from your local fire agency. Wildfire Adapted assessments are not part of a code compliance program.
Unimproved Parcels are bare lots that have no buildings or other structures. Sonoma County Code Chapter 13A defines regulations for unimproved parcels, including vegetation within 10 feet of roadsides or adjoining structures. The Rebate Program may include improvements on unimproved parcels based on recommendations from the Defensible Space Assessment.
The Wildfire Adapted program provides free Defensible Space Assessments to all homes and unimproved parcels in the program areas.
The Zone Zero ember-resistant zone is currently not required by law, but science has proven it to be the most important of all the defensible space zones. Because it is so important, it will be a requirement for Defensible Space within the next two years for properties in State Responsibility Areas. This zone includes the area under and around all attached decks and requires the most stringent wildfire fuel reduction. The ember-resistant zone is designed to keep fire or embers from igniting materials that can spread the fire to your home.
You can read more about Zone Zero and Defensible Space at ReadyforWildfire.org.
We have completed defensible space assessments in the project areas. However, we may not have completed your assessment if you have a gate, a "no trespassing" sign, or similar.
If you are not sure if you got your assessment, or if you would like to receive a copy of the assessment results, or would like to schedule an assessment or a reassessment, please email us at WildfireAdapted@sonoma-county.org or call us at (707) 565-8575.
Home Hardening Questions
Home Hardening, also known as Structure Hardening or Ignition Resistant Construction (IRC), replaces or modifies parts of buildings that are vulnerable to embers, direct flames, and radiant heat from wildfire. Embers cause over 80% of home ignitions. Simple treatments can be very effective in preventing ember ignition. Learn what you can do—from DIY projects you can do yourself to significant fixes, like replacing a roof.
A Home Wildfire Risk Assessment evaluates where the most vulnerable areas are on the exterior of your home. After each assessment, the property owner is provided with a report outlining the list of potential vulnerabilities customized to their structure and what they can do to reduce risk.
The Wildfire Adapted program provides free Home Wildfire Risk Assessments to property owners in the program areas; however, property owners must sign up for this benefit. These are typically valued at over $300, making this an exciting program opportunity.
SoCo Adapts Phase 2: Rebate Program
The SoCo Adapts Rebate Program is expected to begin in 2025, dependent on FEMA’s release of funding to Sonoma County for Phase 2. We recommend signing up for emails to stay up-to-date with new program information.
Our next step will be to request that those interested in applying for a rebate will need to complete a brief “Pre-Application Interest Survey.” This survey will provide us with a list of locations where work may occur during Phase 2.
Our Funder, FEMA, will use this information to determine our Phase 2 award. You must complete the survey once it's available! When we launch the survey, the best way to be notified is by signing up for email updates. We expect to launch the survey in the upcoming weeks.
Completing and submitting the Interest Survey does NOT mean your proposed project has approval for rebate.
The Rebate Program is expected to launch in 2025, dependent on FEMA’s release of funding to Sonoma County for Phase 2. Sign up for email updates to get the latest information, and be ready to apply at the program's start! Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.
You cannot start any work for the home hardening or defensible space rebate program until:
- You have completed a formal Rebate Program Application.
- The County has accepted your project.
- A contract with the County has been completed.
We expect the Application and Contract process will start in late 2024 or early 2025.
Any work started before the County has approved your Application and Contract is not fundable under the program and will not be paid for.
We understand that waiting for the work to be done is frustrating in our high-risk county, and we appreciate that residents are anxious to get it done. However, any projects paid for with Federal grant money must undergo rigorous environmental review before work is begun, so we ask for your patience as we fulfill requirements.
If my original assessment was more than one year ago, do I need another assessment before applying for a rebate?
No. You may apply to the Rebate Program regardless of when your prior assessments were completed. After you submit your application, program staff will determine if a re-assessment is needed before you conduct your rebate-eligible wildfire risk reduction activities. Once your Rebate Application is approved and you have completed your rebate-eligible work, program staff will reassess your parcel before paying the rebate.
Rebate Work Questions
Defensible space involves routine maintenance activities that all property owners must do, regardless of financial assistance. You are encouraged to do defensible space and home hardening work at any time outside of the SoCo Adapts Rebate Program to reduce wildfire risk to your home and community.
The Rebate Program is designed to provide financial assistance where feasible and eligible. Please note that risk reduction activities are still the homeowner's responsibility. You will have to pass a defensible space inspection to receive your rebate. Be sure you are thinking about both home hardening and defensible space as you plan for your rebate.
Your Defensible Space Assessment and Home Wildfire Risk Assessment Reports can help you identify recommended risk reduction projects that you can do yourself.
For the Rebate Program, remember that rebates can only be applied to work done AFTER you have an approved Rebate Application and signed program Contract. Once you have an approved Application and signed Contract, you can complete the work independently or hire a contractor, following standard rules and regulations. If you complete the work independently, the Rebate Program will reimburse you for materials, but it cannot reimburse you for your labor.
Per FEMA's requirements, rebates cannot pay for routine maintenance such as mowing or leaf removal from gutters or roofs. As a property owner, it is your responsibility to undertake routine maintenance activities.
Can I get work done and then apply for the rebate program to reimburse me for that defensible space or home hardening work?
All defensible space or home hardening projects that you would like a rebate for must wait until you have an approved Rebate Application and a signed program Contract BEFORE work starts.
Any work that begins before the Application and Contract are approved is not fundable under the program and will not be compensated.
We will have more information about contractors and, if necessary, a list of approved contractors when Phase 2 begins.
If you did not receive a Defensible Space Assessment Report or a Home Wildfire Risk Assessment Report, contact us at WildfireAdapted@sonoma-county.org and include your name, mailing address, and Assessors Parcel Number (APN) in the request for your report.
Code Compliance and Insurance Questions
No. These free assessments are not part of any code compliance or code enforcement program.
However, if you wish to participate in the SoCo Adapts Rebate Program for defensible space or home/structure hardening, our funder requires that you must pass a Defensible Space Inspection before your rebate can be issued. The Inspection requirements will be the same as your Defensible Space Assessment. Plan your rebate projects carefully!
The SoCo Adapts Program does not share information collected during Defensible Space or Home Wildfire Risk Assessments with outside entities such as insurance companies, except in the unlikely event of a Public Records Request. Insurance entities have their own standards and assessment methodologies and have not historically requested access to defensible space assessments conducted by CAL FIRE or other entities to determine wildfire risk. Getting a SoCo Adapts Assessment should not affect your insurance.
SoCo Adapt’s Wildfire Home Risk Assessment Reports include improvements suggested by insurance industry programs, especially the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s Wildfire Prepared Home. This is included specifically to help property owners understand what their insurance carrier may ask them in order to keep their coverage or qualify for an insurance discount.
Consider using a rebate to comply with your carrier’s suggested improvements proactively.
Pre-Application Interest Survey Questions
We will be sending an invitation to participate in a Pre-Application Interest Survey soon that will let us know whether you are interested in the Rebate Program and what projects you may want to pursue.
This critical survey will help us secure funding from FEMA for the Rebate Program (during Phase 2). The survey will launch soon; make sure to sign up for email updates.
Program Timeline Information
The SoCo Adapts Rebate Program (Phase 2) will begin in 2025, dependent on FEMA's release of funding to Sonoma County.
Is it still possible to participate in Phase 1 of the program and get a free Defensible Space and/or Home Wildfire Risk Assessment?
The free program assessments will be available until the end of 2023. You can confirm your eligibility by using the SoCo Adapts Parcel Eligibility Lookup.
If you are eligible for a Home Wildfire Risk Assessment, you may be able to click the "Schedule Assessment" button.
If you would like to receive a Defensible Space Assessment or get reassessed, please email us at WildfireAdapted@sonoma-county.org to schedule.
If you need help or have questions about how to sign up, we are happy to help! Call us at (707) 565-8575 or email us at WildfireAdapted@sonoma-county.org.
SoCo Adapts Program Next Steps
We will send an invitation soon for program participants to complete and submit our Pre-Application Interest Survey.
The Pre-Application Interest Survey lets us know that you are interested in the Rebate Program and what projects you may want to pursue. This critical survey will help us secure funding from FEMA for the Rebate Program (during Phase 2). Make sure to sign up for email updates to stay up-to-date and to receive the Pre-Application Interest Survey.