Cal Fire: Final Say On High-Fire Risk In The Hands Of Local Jurisdictions

SACRAMENTO (CBS 13) – The Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa was leveled by the Tubbs Fire. Despite the destruction, the area isn’t listed as a high fire danger area by the state or the city of Santa Rosa.

But who determines which areas are most at risk?

Cal Fire Assistant Deputy Director Daniel Berlant told CBS13 Cal Fire is responsible for mapping most areas in the state.

“We’re also required to map in local jurisdictions, those areas that we determine to be the highest designation, which is very high fire hazard severity zones,” Berlant said.

Those zones are highlighted in red on maps based on Cal Fire recommendations. They consider weather conditions, topography, and vegetation in the process.

“We also look at past fire history all to determine what’s the risk of that area and what’s the probability that we’ll have a fire,” Berlant said.

But highlighted in grey are all the areas that Cal Fire has not deemed most in danger of fire. Included is the Coffey Park area.

“When we do the mapping, we provide our recommendations to a local jurisdiction who then has the ability to alter change, deny or accept those recommendations,” Berlant said.

In short, it’s up to the city or county to add any areas to the map they feel are also at high risk of fire activity.

But why is that designation so important? It determines whether or not new homes must follow strict standards using ember resistant building materials like treated wood, double paned windows and mesh screened air vents.

Berlant recommends these precautions to homeowners because, ultimately, a map can’t determine exactly where the wind will blow potentially deadly burning embers.

“Just because an area is designated very high doesn’t mean it’s the only area that’s going to see the destruction from a wildfire,” he said.

Cal Fire plans to make new recommendations on hazard zones this year. They’ll use the latest technology and factor in areas destroyed by fire in the last 10 years.

More from Macy Jenkins
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