Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Fire Hazard Severity Zones: a growing quagmire of deceit

Last week I received from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, two packages consisting of 15 pages of documents. It was addressed, Dear Valued Stakeholder. That’s how the fire marshal views me. I have a stake in this process, as does anyone who lives in a Fire Hazard Severity Zone. And the FHSZ Map they have created does nothing positive to help the property owner. The FHSZ map does the contrary. It raises the stakes for the homeowner who lives in one of the severity zones. This is one of those situations that fits the adage “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” WATCH OUT!

I live in Fallbrook, a mile south of the high school. Last December, I received a cancellation notice of my homeowner policy. The reason: I live too close to a fire hazard area. I very quickly found out that finding a new insurer was going to be a problem. I think I contacted nine possibilities. Only the last one came through. The others, as soon as it was found out I live in a fire zone, the conversation was over. The cost of the new policy I was able to acquire was over double the cost of my canceled policy. Since then, three of my neighbors have had the same experience. I have heard of many others going through the same experience. Because of this FHSZ map, homeowner policy cancellation is at epidemic proportions. It must be a state-wide problem, not just here in Fallbrook.

This map doesn't help the homeowner! All the map does is raise the insurance anxiety to a hyper level, and in time the skyrocketing cost of insurance will drive people out of their homes. I am afraid when my policy comes up for renewal in December, I’ll have to go through the same process all over again. Another neighbor was just informed his policy cost quadrupled!

If homeowner policy cancellation is the bottom line result of the fire marshal's map, it's not good. I think what the fire marshal is trying to do is predict through computer modeling when and where the next fire will be??? It gets absurd! Here are some quotes from the document: “Hazard is based on the physical conditions that create a likelihood and potential fire behavior over a 30 to 50-year period.” And: “how a fire will behave and probability of flames and embers threatening buildings. Each area of the map gets a score for flame length, embers, and the likelihood of the area burning.” And, one more: “The map is intended to map fire hazard based on fuel loading, slope, fire weather, and other relevant factors where winds have been identified by the department as a major cause of wildfire spread.” Really?! Prediction over a 30 to 50-year period and wind is a major factor in wildfire spread???

A technical advisory committee was composed of members from public agencies, academic institutions, and the institute for business and home safety. They were identified as external subject matter experts in wildland hazard and risk assessment, geospatial modeling, urban-interface fire mechanics and mechanical engineering.

This document and the FHSZ map are nothing but mumbo jumbo, double talking and a snow-job! The design of the document and the map is a diversion to pass the responsibility of fire safety from the state to the homeowner! It's a coverup of past fire marshall failures.

What we need is the fire marshall to go back to the areas identified as State Responsibility Areas (SRA) or Public Lands. Maintain those lands like they were in years passed. Start grading firebreaks, construct fire observation towers, keep dry brush mowed from highway edges. Brush fires by far are started in wild unmanaged lands. Wild brush fires do not start in semi urban neighborhoods where property owners manage and maintain their properties as per already existing fire regulations. This map creates an unfair burden on property owners and should be abolished!

Throw the map in the fire! Computer modeling or fire severity prediction 30 to 50-years out is impossible. If the predictions are for 30 to 50-years out, how does that affect me today?! Again this map is a ploy by the state to divert their own responsibility back on the homeowner. It’s not working. If it was, homeowner insurance rates would be coming down, not skyrocketing!

Oh, Marie Waldron, our assemblymember, just had an article published on this very topic. Her tone was very dubious. She thought that the current FHSZ map, might, might bring about smaller rate increases. That’s not good either!

Please, no rebuttals from current or retired firemen.

Lewis Shell


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