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City of Santa Clarita considers revised high-fire zones

Posted: June 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita land parcels that lie in areas designated as high-fire risk zones could be subject to new building and maintenance requirements in the near future, should the City Council give final approval to state-proposed changes for local fire-zone boundary maps.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recently unveiled a new map to show areas of Santa Clarita that are determined to be at substantial risk for damage from wildfires.

These maps were developed for more than 200 cities statewide over roughly a five-year period, said Dean Cromwell, chief of planning and risk analysis for Cal Fire.

“Basically, the idea of the whole effort is to give some people an indication of potential fire behavior so they know if damage is likely to occur, Cromwell said.

Some of the areas of the new Cal Fire maps were designated as Very High Fire Hazard Severity zones, which carry with them more stringent construction and maintenance requirements for property owners.

Maintenance typically entails clearing a boundary of brush or debris from around a house, while much of the construction requirements entail using ignition-resistant materials such as heavy timber, stucco or metal, according to City Council documents.

While existing homes will likely not have to be retrofitted to meet these construction requirements, new building or renovation projects will likely be subject to them.

The number of areas in these high fire risk zones has actually fallen since the last such map was adopted by the Santa Clarita City Council in 1998, according to council documents. The new map removes the high-fire risk designation from 17,533 land parcels, while only giving the designation to 2,822 new parcels.

Cromwell said, unlike the last time the maps were created, Cal Fire used a standardized state criteria for determining fire-risk zones this time around. This change in criteria likely explains how some land parcels that were in high fire risk zones previously no longer are, Cromwell said.

“Especially in cities, it could be that building and development has so modified the vegetation that it’s too altered to carry a fire any longer,” Cromwell said.

With virtually no discussion, members of the City Council voted unanimously last week to move forward with approving the Cal Fire maps.

The item will be back before the council for a final vote at a future meeting.


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