Tuesday, Jan, 13, 2009 • Council looking to reduce city border with high fire danger zones

People living on the western edge of the city limits should pay extra attention to the recently updated very high fire severity zones map released by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Susanville City Council discussed the fire zone update at its Jan. 7 meeting, when the council considered Ordinance 09-0963, requiring the designation of very high fire hazard severity zones within the city.

Susanville Fire Department Chief Stu Ratner explained to the counsel that the fire hazard severity zones were mandated by the state, and said the city was obligated to adopt the new zone designations. The zone maps are updated by the director of CalFire every five years.

“By doing so, the increased development measures contained in Government Code Section 51182 will be triggered should development ever occur,” Ratner said. “These measures implement ignition resistant building standards, maintain defensible space and require disclosure of the natural hazards at the time of sale.”

Mayor Pro tem Vern Templeton said he had several issues with the new maps. He said that the area of the city that is considered part of the most dangerous fire zone needs to be as accurately mapped as possible.

Templeton said the reason why the area needs to be mapped accurately is because properties in that area will face additional issues and restrictions, from wildland-urban interface building codes requiring them to be more susceptible to fire damage, to higher insurance rates to maintaining defensible space around their properties.

CalFire captain Nikole Melo was on hand to answer any questions from the council or the public about the rezoning. She said the maps were generated by computer at CalFire, and she would be able to provide more information as the maps specifically pertain to the city at the next council meeting.

Templeton said he wasn’t happy about the way new development in that area might be affected by the fire zones as well.

“One of the concerns that I have is that if somebody wants to build a house up there, or even an addition as far as I know, they have to conform to the new building code requirements,” Templeton said. “It’s going to cost a lot more money to comply with the new requirements.”

Gold Run Realty owner and Susan River Fire Protection District board member Jim McCarthy said people purchasing new homes in such areas are generally well informed by their realtors of the additional responsibilities for living there. He said people would have to expect higher insurance rates in such areas as well.

Ratner and Melo both explained to the council that these zones were already in effect and being enforced by CalFire and the state building department.

City staff was directed to get into contact with CalFire before the next meeting, so the city could specifically identify each if the areas and buildings that would be affected by the fire zones before officially adopting the ordinance.

Anyone interested in finding out if their property is in the fire severity zones can go to the next council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 21.

The city council meets every other Wednesday of the month at City Hall, 66 North Lassen St.