RSF Fire Department Clarifies FireWatch

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In an email to the RSF Post, RSFFPD Fire Chief Fred Cox writes:

The Fire District has been fielding questions regarding the Fire Watch Article dated August 2 on the RSF Post. I reviewed the article and found there is some inaccuracies:

1. The article references Ordinance 2020-01 which is the Fire Code. This section deals with new landscape installations and is inapplicable for maintenance provisions of defensible space under AB38. The Fire District utilizes Ordinance 2019-02 to enforce defensible space requirements on existing properties; this Ordinance is the one that will apply to sellers of homes under AB38. So no, there will not be drastic vegetation removal as portrayed in the article unless the home is noncompliant to Ordinance 2019-02. All homes are required to be compliant to this Ordinance year around, which the Fire District does enforce.

2. The Fire District will not and cannot use Fire Watch maps to enforce violations of Ordinance 2019-02; this was never intended as an enforcement tool. We have to visually verify a violation before a violation notice can be sent for corrective actions to be taken. The maps could be of benefit to the Fire District to identify open space areas of concern for fuel mitigation projects; however, the same aerial imagery (absent the filters) is available on Google maps.

These maps are excellent tools for homeowners as it does identify the proper defensible space zones around their home and relative health of the vegetation.

Breaking It Down

In my FireWatch article, I referenced the 2020-01 Fire Ordinance which, as per the above, is only applicable to new construction. For existing homes, and for existing homes that will be sold, the less restrictive 2019-02 Ordinance will be applicable. It is complicated to tease out the differences between the two versions, but suffice it to say that the 2019-02 Ordinance is easier to comply with. You can read the provisions on pages 5 through 7 and here is a link to the latest Fire Department information regarding vegetation management.

In addition, home sales will only have to comply with the 2019-02 Ordinance.

As far as what the Fire Department will do with the FireWatch maps, it is nice to get clarification on that issue. As per above, they will be using them for open space areas, not individual homeowner sites. I would apologize for turning this issue into a conflagration, except that the Association has not been clear how the fire department will use these maps even after three people brought up this and related issues during the FireWatch meeting.

As I wrote in a recent RSF Post forum post:

I wish the Association took more pains to explain that FireWatch is an experiment. We are the very first community to use it. As such, no one knows the right way to roll it out, how it’s really going to work, what the pitfalls are, etc.

Ah well, nothing is perfect in this world.

By the way, all these regulations are adopted by the RSFFPD Board. More information on the board is located here.