Wildfire Hazard Real Estate DisclosureCDF provides Natural Hazard Disclosure maps and data for two types of fire hazard areas referred to in legislation as disclosure items in real estate transactions.
- WILDLAND AREAS THAT MAY CONTAIN SUBSTANTIAL WILDFIRE HAZARDS (State Responsibility Area)
Also known as State Responsibility Area (SRA), these are areas where CDF has legal responsibility for wildland fire protection.
- SRA Definition/Background
- SRA Data Limitations
- SRA Update Process
- SRA Maps by County
- SRA Data in GIS Format
- VERY HIGH FIRE HAZARD SEVERITY ZONES (VHFHSZ)
Assembly Bill 337 (Bates, 1992) required CDF in cooperation with local fire authorities to identify VHFHSZ's in the Local Responsibility Areas (LRA) of California.
State Responsibility Area (SRA) is defined as follows:
"Lands exclusive of cities and federal lands regardless of ownership, classified by the State Board of Forestry as areas in which the primary financial responsibility for preventing and suppressing fires is that of the State. These are lands covered wholly or in part by timber, brush, undergrowth or grass, whether of commercial value or not, which protect the soil from erosion, retard runoff of water or accelerated percolation, and lands used principally for range or forage purposes."
Specifically, SRA is not federally owned, not incorporated, does not exceed a housing density of 3 units per acre, contains wildland vegetation as opposed to agriculture or ornamentals, and has watershed value and/or has range/forage value ( this effectively eliminates most desert lands).
SRA Data Limitations
SRA data were captured from various sources, and have a positional error up to several hundred meters. Where questions arise due to positional accuracy, the primary question should always focus on the "intent" of the SRA boundary, as opposed to the spatial location of the line in GIS format. For example, if the westernmost extent of SRA is a boundary that clearly was intended to follow a specific road, but the GIS data show the line 100 meters west of the road, all parcels west of the road should be considered non-SRA, despite the GIS data indicating they are partially SRA.
SRA Update Process
CDF conducts an extensive SRA review every 5 years, the latest in 2005 and being released 7/1/2006. In addition, the data are updated annually to capture incorporations and land transactions involving the federal government. Despite these efforts, it is extremely difficult to capture all land transactions and incorporations. SRA errors can be reported to CDF Unit SRA coordinators for eventual correction.
As a result of the Oakland Hills fire, which destroyed some 2500 housing units and caused over $2 billion in damages and 25 fatalities, Assemblyman Tom Bates introduced Assembly Bill 337 in the 1992 legislative session. This legislation was signed by the Governor on September 29, 1992 and became known as the Bates Bill. It added sections 51175-51188 to the Government Code relating to Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ). Briefly, it required the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in cooperation with local fire authorities to identify areas of VHFHSZ's in the Local Responsibility Areas (LRA) of California. Once identified, CDF was to notify the local authority of the fact, who then had the option of adopting the model ordinance developed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM), adding to or subtracting areas from the identified zone(s), indicating that they already "meet or exceed" the Bates minimums, or some combination of the above. In short, the ordinances adopted require in most cases a "class B" roof for new construction or replacement of existing roofs (subsequent legislation passed in 1994 (AB 3819 - Willie Brown) raises this to Class A after January 1, 1997), plus other fire defense improvements including minimum clearances of 30 feet around structures. Newer legislation (AB 1216 -Vargas and SB 1369 - Kuehl) give additional regulatory requirements associated with amendments to both relevant Govt. and Resource Codes associated with wildfire hazards. These data are based on the original assessments completed in 1998. 25 counties contain Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones, and 33 do not.
VHFHSZ Data Limitations
VHFHSZ data were developed based on a hazard scoring schema using subjective criteria for fuels, fire history, terrain influences, housing density, and occurrence of severe fire weather designed to delimit areas where urban conflagration could result in catastrophic losses. CDF Units developed initial recommendation maps for areas meeting threshold hazard criteria, and these areas were then reviewed, modified, adopted or rejected by the local fire authority. While in intent the VHFHSZ mapping effort was sound, in application the final adopted areas represent only a portion of the state's LRA that poses significant fire hazards. Additionally, the boundaries of VHFHSZ areas were often determined based on municipal or other administrative boundaries, and consequently may reflect portions of a community that are not actually high hazard areas, but are adjacent to areas that are.
Thus, any use of these data should consider these implementation issues as a fundamental limitation of the data. Further, based on local authority, numerous local government agencies have reclassified lands as VHFHSZ after the original map data was developed, and applied local and/or state interpretation of fire hazard mitigation policies. Consequently, the map data showing VHFHSZ is out-of-date, incomplete, and reflects an inconsistent application of decision rules reflecting physical conditions contributing to hazard. For counties active in updates to VHFSZ, we are making efforts to link directly to local sites reporting current hazard zone data.
LRA-VHFHSZ Update Process
VHFHSZ are scheduled for a full update/remap process based on new science and techniques being developed to remap Fire Hazard Severity Zones statewide. Draft data and maps will be developed by Jan 1, 2007, and formal review and adoption of new VHFHSZ areas will be completed by Jan 1, 2008.