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Agendas and Minutes

Wildfire Safety Commission (View All)

Regular Meeting Minutes

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
11:00AM to 1:00PM
Conference Room, Ashland Fire Station #1
455 Siskiyou Blvd

Stephen Gagne, Doug Kay, Tim Bewley, Bruce Moats, Ron Parker, Vicky Sturtevant, Alison Lerch; Guests: Brandon Goldman, Bill Molnar, Margueritte Hickman
Louring Barlow – SOU Environmental Studies Student
III. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: October 14, 2015
Tim motions to approve, Ron seconds, all in favor.
Update on Wildfire Mitigation Commission (WMC) opening/replacement of Hugh Holden
  1. Action Item Update (10 minutes)
    1. Wildfire Hazard Zone (WHZ) expansion material in the city utility bill
  2. Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update (50 minutes)
    1. Daily Tidings Column/Talking Points  
      1. Ashland Fire & Rescue hosts a column in the Daily Tidings every 3 weeks and is an opportunity for the WMC to educate the public about what we are up to
      2. Bert did an incredible job on the Lomakatsi article. Ron would like to see a well thought article about the WMC. Should this article be from the voice of the Ashland Fire & Rescue (AF&R) or WMC? Since AF&R is so well know, and WMC is the citizen input, maybe it should read from AF&R.  We would start with a “Did you know….about WMC” article. Put in a line about the WHZ expansion and that the WMC is in full support.  We need to keep the article simple without acronyms. We can include the general firewise email (firewise at for people to provide comments. Stephen suggested that if the email address is included in the column that we need to spell out to avoid scams.
      3. There was some discussion about the Commission’s name and whether or not we should remove “mitigation”.  In addition, a logo was suggested as we start putting more information out to the public.  The WMC could use the Firewise Ashland logo.
Ron made a motion to begin working on a short column to identify the WMC and the mission we are trying to accomplish (genesis) for the December 21st due date. Stephen 2nd. All in Favor
Action Item: Chris/Alison/Margueritte work on the column; Ron/Vicky will review it and bring it to the December meeting.
                         4. Talking Points: Writing the column due December 21st will ease us back                                     into the Talking Points. We can bring document to the December 16th                                        meeting and finalize them. 

                                      i. The original intent of the TPs was because we wanted to provide a                                               short document the Ashland Coalition asking for input on the                                                       Community Wildfire Protection Plan update.  Kevin advised us to                                                 meet with Coalition members 1 on 1.  Vicky believes that we still                                                 need to meet with certain people on the Coalition.  We still have                                                 work to do. 
Action Item:  The WMC will facilitate conversations with the School District and OSF and have a follow up discussion with the Hospital. Tim has contact with Sheila Clough from the Hospital. Chris and Alison will talk with Chief Karns about getting to the school Superintendent.
Action Item:  Send the talking points to the commission and ask for input by Friday December 4th.
December Agenda Item: Talking Points
           b.  Center for Social Ecology Reporti.The report is lacking an executive summary and a         summary of the findings. 
                      ii.Round Robin:
  1.  Ron:
    1. Take Baby Steps;
    2. Value of repeat visits: communication needs more than one time. 
    3. People are willing and expected to be mobilized (in terms of preparation)- we need to draw from our resources.
    4. In addition, people didn’t seem to be interested at first, but at second chance they were interested.
  2. Bruce:
    1. Report provided excellent recommendations for outreach and education opportunities.
    2. Regulation vs. Education.
  3. Tim:
    1. Education in baby steps,
    2. Turnover in Ashland’s population, and how important it is with the revolving population. Wildfire education and outreach will be a forever ongoing process. 
    3. Impressed at how much Evacuation came up. This is a big deal. (Where do people go?)
    4. Appreciated some of their process working with the public and empowering them.
  4. Vicky:
    1. Evacuation, it should be an action item in our minutes. (Tim also mentioned that this needs to be in the CWPP).
    2. Landscapers interest in working with us and we need to follow up with them. 
  5. Stephen:
    1. It was packed with recommendations that need to be more organized.
    2. Without a coherent summary of findings/recommendations, it made it seem intimidating to be able to complete all the work.
    3. Liked the tie in with the Food Project and the suggested to use to disseminate and gather information.
    4. Firewise maps- why don’t we have one? We do.
    5. The focus on grassroots level, and how meetings are a celebration of the work, not where the work gets done.
  6. Doug:
    1. Changed the wording from fire to wildfire, and how people were more reactive and willing to talk.
    2. Information distribution with the Food Program.  Insert the Firewise Landscaping brochure into the green bags.
    3. Evacuation signs in town are great, but where do we go?  This needs to be addressed. 
    4. Baby Steps, one on one, and repeated efforts.
Action item: Vicky will send Kevin an email to write a summary of action items and recommendations in time for the next meeting. Alison will follow up.  Alison will synthesize the findings from these notes and send them to Vicky.
December Agenda Item: Put the Community Assessment Report back on the December agenda when we have a revised report back from Kevin.
  1. CWPP Outline
    1. FAC & Resilient Landscapes: How can WMC help shape these chapters?
      1. The general feeling from the WMC is it is too soon to tackle these chapters.  The WMC needs a more detailed outline to better provide input.
Action Item: Chris and Alison will make the outline more detailed (5 pages?) and bring it back to the commission in December or January.
  1. AD HOC Committee Reports
    1. Firewise: Pursued getting Ashland’s Firewise Communities together by Nov/Dec 2015 but it was too hard to get a commitment from all communities with the holidays around the corner. We will hold a meeting in Spring 2016 at the Bellview Grange.  Alison will send the updated Firewise contacts to Ron and Doug.  This meeting should be before the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 7th cleanup day.
    2. Risk Assessment: No report
    3. Ashland Coalition: Skipped
    4. Social Assessment: Skipped
  1. Wildfire Hazard Zone Expansion
    1. AF&R sent these comments to the new draft code.
      1. The increase in lot coverage needs to be changed to indicate any increase in lot coverage OR fire area (square footage). We had originally asked for 100 sq ft but we’re fine with it increasing to 200 sq ft. Fire area includes all areas under the roof. This would capture second story additions.
      2. In Section B.2.d we need to require a 10 foot clearance on all trees, not just those dedicated as fire prone.  This is consistent with other codes.
      3. In Section D.1.c it should be changed to 30 feet of a structure.  Again, consistency.
      4. Section B.2.k should read No combustibles man-made or natural
    2. Bill and Brandon: Planning for lands for these wildfire regulations has been a 30 year process. States require communities to identify wildfire as a hazard.  This proposed code is to include the entire city. We will have to send a notice to every household with the language “the new code could change your ability to use your property as you currently do”.  Once that notice is sent out that is when the rubber meets the road.  The code is still in a working draft form.  There are some consistency issues with the current land use code.  For example, within 30 feet of a structure, certain common trees would be required to be removed in the new code/standards. Currently to remove a tree 6-18 inches, a notice to your neighbors gets sent out. We are trying to balance the city’s comprehensive plan with this new code.
    3. Brandon: The current WHZ contains all single family homes, and with this new code, multi-family, businesses, schools, etc would be regulated.  A number of these projects require landscaping for screening/parking lots, and other conflicting interest.  Common AF&R practices for developing defensible space were the basis for this new code. We are in a position to look at where there is conflict between tree preservation/screening ordinances.  The draft will be presented to the Planning Commission Study Session on November 24th and the Tree Commission Study Session on December 3rd.
      1. Questions:
        1. Stephen:
          1. Section B.d.iii: Is there a list of acceptable shrubs or trees? Can we address the language “Additional plants that are not identified on the current Prohibited Plant List can be added…”
          2. What about a building remodel where the footprint stays the same? Chief Karns would like to see an amendment where adding a second story is a trigger for defensible space. What is the trigger for defensible space? How about a financial trigger?
          3. There is a conflict around the current tree protection ordinance: Can we make an exemption on the current tree ordinance for fire protection? Expanding the tree ordinance is not in the scope of what we are doing on the new code. (Vicky: add a clause “You don’t need to get a permit when this tree is part of this fire protection”)
            1. Bill:  The code changing is a simple process, but this is more a fundamental change.  One ordinance will trump the other. Both objectives are valuable, we just need a balance.
            2. Doug: If we take a tree out, right now we have to replace the tree.
            3. Bill: How can we permit in a timely manner but still maintain the values of Ashland?
          4. Required to send a letter as mentioned above.  This only affects your property if you modify your structure. 
            1. Brandon: By changing (Measure 56 notice) your property, you now have a new regulation that could cost you more money than before.
        2. Vicky: Are there baby steps to this process?
          1. Bill:  Current standards in wildfire areas are to “thin and eliminate canopies of fast burning plants and replace with fire-resistant species”. Maybe we can apply this general theme until we have a more specific code?
          2. Margueritte: Internally the AF&R created the guidelines for the WHZ old code, and they are now codified into the new draft ordinance.  Having a subjective approach does not always work.
          3. Bill: The difference between the previous code and the new code is there is no longer a choice as to removing a tree on the flammable plant list.
          4. Brandon: The clear and objective nature of the new draft code gives people a transparent approach to their remodel or new building. The new flammable plants list is a significant approach to a baby step approach.
          5. Doug:  What about your neighbor’s hazardous tree? 
            1. Bill: We are only responsible for the trees on your property unless there are limbs hanging over your side.
        3. Ron: What are the penalties for not complying?
        4. Bill: They will go through the standard process, and would eventually be a citation to municipal court and a $300 - 400 fine.
        5. Vicky: Where did the Prohibited Plant List come from?
          1. Alison: The list was first created by Ashley Lara. Alison cross referenced the list with other flammable plant lists in the region and then worked with Julie Smitherman to stay consistent with the Water Wise Landscaping program.
          2. Brandon: This is a resolution so that when new plants are considered flammable we can add them to the list. There is room for exceptions in the new ordinance (like rosemary).
        6. Tim: We should have a meeting with the Tree Commission.
          1. Bill: Tree Commission is probably more in the middle in terms of support.
          2. Brandon: There are values on both fronts when talking about riparian areas along creeks.  Tree Commission looks at the preservation of more than just beautiful trees. Planting deciduous trees on the property line can help with multiple values.
        7. Tim: What is your sense about resistance for adopting this code?
          1. Bill: Most of the resistance is focused on the area within 30 feet, the threshold of triggering, and the balance of people’s investment and choice.  
        8. Vicky: AF&R should write a cover letter that is included with the notice because Measure 56 is very bureaucratic.
December Agenda item: AF&R will write a cover letter for Measure 56, and run it by the WMC to make sure it reflects the values of wildfire.
Action Item: Get an updated timeline from Brandon.
  1. Ashland Fire & Rescue Updates
    1. Firewise Communities
    2. Ashland Forest Plan
    3. Ashland Forest Resiliency
A.Next meeting December 18, 2015, 9:00am - 11:00am

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