Board of Forestry Don’t Sacrifice Safety in favor of More Development

Board of Forestry Don’t Sacrifice Safety in favor of More Development

The State Board of Forestry has approved revisions to the State fire safety regulations. 
How many parcels will be unlocked to new development in fire-prone communities?
This fight is not over: At a time when our landscapes are burning and homes and lives are again being lost, whom does our Board of Forestry (BOF) serve? Unfortunately it certainly is not residents or vulnerable communities. Fire chiefs and other firefighting professionals are opposed to the approved December 2021 State Minimum Fire Safe Regulations. To date, professional objections have been ignored by the BOF. Meanwhile, many rural counties, the building industry and commercial developers, are lobbying to weaken the fire safe regulations. 

Development trumps fire safety: The BOF is prioritizing development in fire-prone communities and abdicating its discretion and enforcement authority to local jurisdictions. 

Bottom Line: The approved regulations are effectively reduced to unenforceable guidelines with almost no requirements for existing roads. By so reducing the current 2020 fire safe regulations, which have been in place for 30 years, the BOF is abrogating the intent of the legislation.

Please join us in asking the BOF to Lead in Fire Safety. 

Object to the December 2021 Approved Regulations Between January 3-17, 2022
Demand an EIR

You can object to the approved gutted fire safety regulations by simply stating the December approved regs weaken the existing 2020 fire safe regulations for all existing roads (where most development occurs) and fly in the face of public safety. The approved December 2021 regs no longer meet the intent of the regulations to, “…provide for safe and concurrent fire apparatus access and civilian evacuation.” 

A CEQA analysis should include quantifying the potential increase in population and intensity of use in the fire danger areas as a result of the liberal exception process that will now free up parcels to new building construction, including commercial. Demand a robust CEQA analysis.

Write to the BOF:

The Problems with the Plan

The earlier (April 2021) draft regulations were bad enough, now the current December 2021 approved regs are unconscionable. Serious Concerns Include the Following:

Completely eliminated the dead-end road limitation for all new development on existing roads, recommended by the Fire Chief’s working group, even for multi-unit residential and commercial development. (The Fire Chiefs recommended a ½ mile limitation.)

Removed significant road standards for existing roads: it is now impossible with the approved language to meet the intent of the regulations, “…to provide for safe and concurrent fire apparatus access and civilian evacuation”.  Hence, a new high-density residential and/or intensive commercial development could be built on a 14-foot wide (or 10-foot wide with allowed exceptions) mountain road with no shoulders and steep drop-offs and on a 12-mile dead-end road in a high fire risk area, with grades exceeding 25%.

Gutted weight requirements for existing bridges, which will lead to dangerous traffic bottlenecks. Firefighting equipment and Firefighters conducting evacuations during a conflagration will not be able to access large new developments enabled by this proposal or to strategically access structures and wildlands to fight fires.

Unlimited discretion given to local jurisdictions through the exception process and other loopholes; such authority weakens the State regulations for all new building construction.

Compromised ridgeline protections: A fire safe standard in April draft regs: “New Buildings on Undeveloped Ridgelines identified as strategically important to fight fires are prohibited” was changed to limit only Residential Units. State regulations should prohibit commercial and industrial building construction on ridgelines to comply with the intent of the mandating legislation (SB 901).

In summary, the key concerns:

The approved December 2021 regs support adding more development, without fire safe measures, to existing communities where evacuations are already problematic. These developments further increase wildfire risk to lives and property, reduce the ability of responders to defend property, strain firefighting budgets, and may jeopardize your ability to obtain property insurance.

The BOF did not conduct a data-supported analysis of existing road and infrastructure capacity to assess potential impacts to wildfire emergency response and evacuation plans, and the increase in ignition sources that will occur by providing both exemptions and exceptions to thousands of parcels. 

In Their Own Voices
A Team of Fire Experts Speaks Out

This powerful letter is from 21 senior fire professionals urging the BOF to preserve the 2020 regulations to protect both residents and firefighters.

 Wildfire Professionals Oppose BOF 2021 Minimum Fire Safe Regs

Thank you!