CalFire will extend the public comment period for the adoption process of the Fire Hazard Severity Zone map through Aug. 9.
According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the extension for public comment was done by reviewing “more than a thousand comments,” that led to the several zones being updated, including some within the Santa Clarita Valley.
The map has been a source of concern from residents and held to scrutiny by local politicians since the announcement of a brush clearance program that uses the map as a reference for determining whether residents would need to pay $100 to fund inspections deemed to be within areas considered a fire hazard zone.
It also has the potential to be used to determine fire insurance rates, which one resident spoke up about at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“A lot of people’s fire insurance is going up, automotive insurance is going up … people who are interested, who know their property, may be better than the generalities of the state fire, fire is important and we all want to be protected. But now is the time to comment,” said Missy, a resident who regularly speaks at City Council meetings and only goes by her first name.
The state recently extended the end of the comment period from Feb. 3 to April 4 after its initial round of community meetings prompted complaints about the process lacking transparency and being poorly timed.
That public comment period resulted in over 100,000 acres throughout the state having their severity redesignated — which included a tract of properties near the intersection of Commerce Center Drive and Magic Mountain Parkway and part of Six Flags Magic Mountain.
This area was downgraded to “moderate” with a halo of “high” designation around it — separating it from the swath of “severe” designation that encompasses almost the entirety of the hills and open spaces surrounding the Santa Clarita Valley.
Kara Garrett, associate governmental program analyst for the Fire Marshal’s office, stated that all comments received during the public comment period were reviewed and will be responded to in the Final Statement of Reasons and that a redesignation of a zone could be attributed to things such as brush clearance or other evaluations made during recent inspections.
“Because hazard in these areas is largely determined by incoming embers from adjacent wildland, urban areas that are similar in vegetation type and housing density may have a change in FHSZ class as the distance to the wildland edge increases,” wrote Garrett in an email to The Signal. “Areas immediately adjacent to wildland receive the same FHSZ score as that wildland where fire originates, and the model then produces lower scores as the distance to wildland edge increases.”
How these areas change classes, or severity designations, is based on a number of factors such as nearby slope grades and fuel potential of nearby brush or vegetation. But, the area as a whole is also taken into account when these zone designations are put into place.
“Zone boundaries divide zones based on geographic and vegetation features that align with fire hazard potential; although, at a local scale, it may appear that the immediate area is similar on both sides of the edge,” wrote Garrett. “The class value within a zone is based on the average hazard score across the whole zone — so areas that are in the same zone, but not immediately adjacent to a local area, can have an influence on the final zone classification.”
Written public comment by residents can be submitted to [email protected]. For more data and information on these zones, visit: osfm.fire.ca.gov/FHSZ.