Fire Season Will Be Starting Soon – Are You Prepared ?
As a local Realtor in West Hills, Ca, I have seen fires race across the areas of our local hills and Castle Peak.
We are very lucky to have the best fire department in the World, yes I said the World, to prevent and fight these fires when they erupt. Fires can take over an area very quickly and if you are not prepared, you can get trapped in an area even if you think you are safe.
The Fire Department will initiate an inspection of properties in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones beginning May 1st, each year.
We have to take these dates that L.A. City is telling us to comply with very seriously. These great men and women that work in the fire department put their lives on the line for us and the least we can do is comply with their time frame.
I have found some great info to share with you on how to be prepared from the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The first step is to determine if you live in one of these fire areas so you can start the brush clearance away from your homes.
Here is a link to find out- http://assessormap.lacountyassessor.com/mapping/viewer.asp
Follow these directions:
1) Type in your address or 10 digit Assessor ID # — Then Click Submit
2) Click on Assessor ID # (also known as your APN #)
3) A new window will appear on the right — Click on View Assessor”s map
Remember that when clearing your brush, safety is very important. In recent years many brush fires have started by homeowners attempting to clear their brush. Many times, the sparks produced from metal blades on motorized equipment has started fires.
The following are simple guidelines for homeowners to follow to clear their brush safely:
Always have a water source readily available. A water extinguisher, garden hose or a few buckets of water.
Avoid clearing brush during the peak temperatures of the day, between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm and on days when a Red Flag Alert* has been declared by the Fire Department.
Only use properly maintained motorized equipment and have a spark arrester when required.
Do not refuel motorized equipment while motor is running. Use approved fuel-dispensing containers only.
Always make sure the hot exhaust on any motorized equipment is clear of any vegetation. (grasses, weeds, shrubs)
Do not use metal blades on weed whackers/whips. Use nylon line or plastic blades instead.
Always wear safety glasses and gloves. Hard hats and dust masks are recommended.
Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions on the time frames and the instructions on what to do.
Many parts of this article courtesy of LAFD.
|1. What properties are inspected under the Annual Brush Clearance and Landscape Vegetation ManagementPrograms?
- As a result of lessons learned from various fires within the City of Los Angeles, the Fire Department, consistent with State legislation mandates, identified areas that are prone to wind-driven fires for annual inspection of hazardous brush or vegetation conditions. These areas are identified as Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.
- Currently, there are approximately 130,000 properties identified within the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. These areas include the Santa Monica Mountains, Mount Washington, El Sereno, Baldwin Hills, Elysian Park, parts of San Pedro, and the San Gabriel and Santa Susana Mountains.
2. What is the inspection process?
- The Fire Department will initiate an inspection of properties in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones beginning May 1st, each year. If you have abated the hazard on your property by May 1st. and the property was inspected and no hazards were found, you will not be contacted by the fire department. Thank you for doing your part to make the VHFHSZ and your neighborhood a safer place. If the property is not in compliance, the owner will be issued a Notice of Non-compliance describing the hazards that need clearing and will be given 15 days to complete the work.
3. What is the Fire Department’s enforcement policy on landscape vegetation management?
- The Fire Department is implementing a phased approach to the inspection process. In the last quarter of 1999, the Fire Department initiated educational meetings with concerned homeowners’ associations and provided handout information on the Landscape Vegetation Management Program.
- Information is being provided so that property owners will understand the Landscape Vegetation Management Program.
- Beginning in May each year, Fire Inspectors will evaluate properties in need of landscape vegetation management If the property requires work, a Notice of Non-compliance will be given to the property owner describing the work that needs to
be done, along with specific requirements regarding managing and maintaining landscape vegetation. The Fire Department will work with the property owner to establish a reasonable timeline for compliance.
4. How do I comply?
- You should self-inspect your property and make sure that it meets the “Brush Clearance Requirements,” as outlined on this web site. Please refer to the brush clearance requirements page.
5. What will happen if my property is not in compliance?
- For properties not in compliance with the Los Angeles Brush Clearance Ordinance, a Notice of Non-compliance will be issued indicating the violations found during the inspection by the Fire Department.
- You will have 15 days to complete the work described on the Notice of Non-compliance.
- Upon completion of the required work, you may request a “Cleared-by-Owner” inspection, or the Fire Department will automatically reinspect your property after 15 days.
- If your property requires no additional work; a Cleared-by-Owner Notice will be mailed to you.
- If your property is non-compliant when it is reinspected, you will be subject to a $300* non-compliance reinspection assessment.
- The Fire Department will hire a private contractor to clear the property and bill the property owner for the clearance costs, plus an additional $1026* administrative fee for processing the contract. If not paid, these assessments will be forwarded to the County Tax Assessor for collection.
6. What are the fees that apply to the Annual Brush Clearance and Landscape Vegetation Management Programs?
- $300 non-compliance reinspection fee will be assessed if the property is not in compliance after the first reinspection.
- $1026* administrative fee charged for Fire Inspector time, clerical and data processing, and follow-up on non-compliant properties sent to private contractors. This fee is only charged when a Certified Contractor clears the property under contract from the Fire Department.
7. What existing Fire Department resources are provided to homeowners in these areas to enhance brush response readiness?
- Home and property owners living in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and hillside grass areas (Santa Monica Mountains, Mount Washington, El Sereno, Elysian Park, Baldwin Hills, parts of San Pedro, and the San Gabriel and Santa Susana Mountains) continue to benefit from Fire Department services that are designed to provide an enhanced level of response to areas at risk on high hazard days. These enhancements include:
- Predeployment of additional fire companies, brush patrol apparatus, Command Officers, and community fire patrols in hillside areas.
- Predeployment of helicopters with water dropping capability.
- Local fire company patrol of critical areas for brush Fires.
- Pretreatment of hillside homes with Class A and barricade foams to protect them from wildfires.
- Development of preattack plans for areas where fires have historically occurred.
8. My neighbor’s tree limb comes over my wall. Can I make him cut it?
- If vegetation crosses your property boundaries and you have been cited to abate the hazard, you are responsible to eliminate the hazard.
9. Do I have to cut down trees closer to each other than 18 feet?
- All dead trees and vegetation must be removed. Living trees must be appropriately trimmed but need not be removed.
10. The tree is right next to my house. Do I have to cut it down?
- Landscape vegetation is generally not a hazard, however the foliage must comply with 5 feet vertical clearance above roofs and 10 feet away from chimney outlets.
11. I need more than fifteen days. Can I get an extension?
- Brush clearance is a year-round responsibility. The Fire Code does not provide for extension of time.
12. There is a red tag or yellow doorknocker on my door. Why?
- A red tag means that your property is not in compliance. The yellow tag means that your property has been scheduled for clearance by a City contractor.
13. Will an Inspector call before an inspection or re-inspection?
- No, your first inspection and re-inspection are automatic with the volume of inspections, individual appointments are not possible.
14. Can someone come to my property and show me what needs to be done?
- Help in understanding the brush clearance requirements can be found by:
- contacting your local fire station
- consulting a brush contractor
- referring to the other pages of this web site.
- reviewing your brochure, extra brochures are at your local fire station
15. Why have I been cited to clear 200 feet when my property is smaller than that?
- The minimum requirement for brush clearance is 200 feet. You are required to clear all portions of your property that are within 200 feet of any structure, even if the structure is on someone else’s property (this applies even if the structure is across the street.)
16. Where can I obtain a list of contractors that perform brush clearance?
17. I have cleared my property and my neighbor has not. Who can I report this to?
- Properties are cited in May, and property owners have until June 1st before City contractors begin clearing noncompliant properties. It is recommended that you wait until June 1st before contacting the Brush Clearance Unit who can provide you with the status of contract properties. You can now report a Brush Hazard using the internet. Click here.
18. Must I cut my fruit trees?
- No, but please remove any dead material from the trees.
19. My house is not in the brush area. Why did I receive a notice?
- Your mailing address may not be the property cited. Do you own other properties in the brush clearance zone?