Supervisors approve a new ordinance to enhance fire protection efforts

Published on April 22, 2020

The Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt a new Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance, which will govern the abatement of hazardous vegetation and combustible material on both vacant and improved parcels. This is a significant change from the previous county code which focused primarily on vacant land, leaving the state and local fire codes to govern land with structures. The new ordinance repeals and replaces the previous code and provides fire officials with consistent guidelines to ensure adequate defensible space is maintained on vacant land as well as around structures and enforcement mechanisms are in place to encourage compliance. 

California Public Resource Code 4291 and local fire codes require a property owner to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around all structures. The county’s previous ordinance had been in effect since 2010 and required the owners of neighboring parcels to assist with defensible space when necessary to provide 100 feet from all structures. The new ordinance brings the state, local fire code, and county together by providing the same standards through one resource. In addition, the ordinance will give fire officials the authority to require fire hazard abatement outside of the traditional 100-foot distance in extraordinary high-hazard circumstances.

Placer County Fire Department Chief Brian Estes strongly encouraged supervisors to adopt the new ordinance. “This ordinance will provide our County Fire Department and our local Fire Districts with the same playbook to work from,” said Estes “It’s important to enforce the same standards throughout the unincorporated areas and show a united front with a clear message to residents that we need everyone to take individual responsibility to keep our communities safe from destructive fires.”

The new ordinance is designed to streamline the compliance process by shifting appeals from an administrative body to a single administrative hearing officer. It will allow citations to be issued for non-compliance with an expedited appeals process, and if the hazard is not abated within the allocated time frame, the county will have the authority to remove the vegetation and combustible material. The ordinance will also establish a cost recovery process to cover the costs of removal and lien the property to recover the same.

The county has been working for the past two years with focus groups made up of local fire chiefs and fire prevention officers to develop the Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance. The new ordinance will go into effect on May 21, 2020.