Fire Adapted Ashland: Wildfire Hazard Zone
Ashland’s Wildfire Hazard Zone (WHZ) and associated safety codes were conceived in 1992 to address the threat of a fire in hills above town. Experience tells a different story. Destructive wildfires have happened primarily outside of the existing WHZ:
- The 2000 Nezla Fire torched one home and threatened dozens
- The 2006 Chitwood Fire damaged 3 homes
- The 2009 Siskiyou Fire caused evacuation of 109 homes and Bellview School
- 11 homes burned in the 2010 Oak Knoll Fire with 3 more damaged
Community Wildfire Safety Proposal
Our local experience, that of other communities (Weed, Wenatchee, Santa Rosa), and our analysis shows that all of Ashland could be exposed to wildfire. If not directly exposed to flames, homes and businesses can experience wind-blown embers that commonly ignite buildings during wildfires.
To reduce our wildfire risk, Ashland Fire & Rescue and the Wildfire Mitigation Commission have taken input from the Planning Commission and Tree Commission and proposed to expand the Wildfire Hazard Zone (WHZ) to encompass the entire city limits. This would eliminate use of wood shake roofing and flammable landscaping during new construction or remodels that increase the building footprint by over 200 square feet. Except for number five below, the expanded ordinance would only apply to properties where construction is proposed. Generally, these are the types of elements that would be required:
1. No fire-prone vegetation or ground cover within 5 ft of a building
2. Ten foot spacing from tree branches to a chimney
3. Spacing requirements for existing fire-prone trees and shrubs
4. Additional fuel break size for lots with 20% slope or greater
5. No new planting of fire-prone species close to buildings anywhere in the City
The proposed wildfire safety ordinance and code changes are scheduled for a hearing on June 12th at the Planning Commission and at City Council sometime in July or August. Every postal patron in the city of Ashland will receive a notice in May 2018 explaining the proposed changes in code. Please join us to learn more:
Community Wildfire Safety Open House
When: May 31st, 2018 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Where: City Council Chambers, 1175 East Main St.
Living With Wildfire: Existing Construction
The proposed standards only apply to new construction and some remodels, so what about all the existing building in town? We're working on an effort to get mitigation funding for the highest hazard buildings throughout Ashland, and we really need everyone to make wildfire safety a priority around their homes. Our Firewise program is a great model, whether you rally your neighbors or not.