The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve a state fire map which pinpoints areas of the city most prone to wildfires at its Tuesday night meeting.
The map is required by State law and details the city's Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones which encompasses most of Newport Coast and the canyons of Upper Buck Gully. City officials say the areas include heavy, non-irrigated trees and shrubs which are a high source of fuel for fires and include a large area that burned in the 1993 Laguna Canyon Fire. Lower Buck Gully and Morning Canyon -- which were previously identified on the state fire map -- have since been excluded due to the area's decreased chance for wildfires, according to a city staff report.
The VHFHSZ designation requires some homeowners to take proactive measures against wildfires including creating defensible space, reducing flammable vegetation, building reconstructed and new homes to fire resistive standards and disclosing that the property is in the designated zone. Fire Chief Scott Poster, who says many of the homes in the fire zone area are already taking these precautions, told the council the maps are essential because of the dangers of wildfires.
“Wildfires have plagued California for quite some time resulting in a tremendous amount of property loss, a tremendous amount of costs, and also lives that have been lost in the process of combating wildfires," Poster said.
Poster said the VHFHSZ were identified based on fuel loading, slope, fire weather, vegetation types, fire history, high winds and other factors. Over the last several months the fire department to help educate residents about the potential dangers and prevention of wildfire outbreaks in Newport Beach.
"It's not going to eliminate all fires. This zone is designed to prevent a conflagration, the home to home spread of fires and the wind driven fires," Poster explained. "So we feel confident with the research we have done that this is an approprite map for Newport Beach.”
Fire Department officials say although wildfires have been detectable in the past, over recent years they have become less succinct in their predictability and happen almost year-round.