Calfire updates fire-hazard map | SierraSun.com

Calfire updates fire-hazard map

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunScott Witt of Calfire explains the new maps proposing fire hazard and severity zones in Nevada and Placer County.
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After the destructive Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe, the California Department of Forestry and Fire is revising a map that identifies the level of fire risk in different areas of the state.

In updating the California Fire Hazard Severity Zoning Map, Calfire designates zones throughout California as moderate, high, or very high fire hazards. That classification will help land-use planners to determine the type and extent of new development to support.

“Calfire won’t be involved in saying where development should be or where it shouldn’t,” said Scott Witt, a Calfire captain out of Nevada City, at a sparsely attended public forum Tuesday in Truckee. “Instead, where development does get built, we will ensure adequate fire management to prevent fire moving from structure to wildland or wildland to structure.”

Witt said Calfire would implement the hazard zoning map through local building codes, with department representatives providing advice to municipal and county officials.

Changes to the map in the Truckee Tahoe area will be minimal, he said.

“There’s not a lot of change in our area because when we first did our map (of the Nevada, Placer, and Yuba County district), we put a fair amount of thought and science in our area,” Witt said.

Other districts in the past simply blanketed their areas of the state with “very high” hazard levels, creating inconsistencies from one region to the next, he said.

Building-code changes will also be easier in Nevada and Placer counties, Witt said, because both counties already require new construction to meet the highest standards for roofing materials: Class One asphalt, cement or metal.

Witt stressed that only new development would be affected by the new map and building codes, so owners of existing structures will not be required to make renovations.

At Tuesday’s forum to discuss the map, Calfire speakers and officials making video presentations explained what the new map means.

Kate Dargan, state fire marshall said via video that the new map covers the 31 million acres Calfire is responsible for in the state, dividing zones up according to the hazard level.

Hazard, as opposed to risk, analyzes conditions like fuel potential, slope, and weather to determine the likelihood of a wildfire, said Dave Sapsis, senior fire scientist for Calfire, also in a video presentation.

Witt said potential fuel, rather than being based on current conditions of vegetation that may have recently been treated, looks at a 30- to 50-year climax potential for vegetation.