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Fire map plan raises insurance worries

Some residents said a proposed fire-hazard map may lead to rising insurance rates for new homeowners in the most dangerous zones, but insurance officials denied the charges.

The proposed map from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shows “very high” blaze possibilities surrounding the Grass Valley-Nevada City area. It also indicates “high” hazard possibilities for most of the south county.

“These maps give the insurance industry a carte blanche to no longer give you insurance,” said Byron Sanderson, who lives off Bitney Springs Road.



Calfire officials denied the charges.

“The insurance industry does not use these maps for decision making,” said Wayne Mitchell of Calfire headquarters in Sacramento. “The insurance industry already uses detailed maps with travel times from fire stations” to help determine rates.




The fire-hazard map is being updated to reflect new fire-safety building regulations in California that apply in the rural areas served by Calfire. It only applies to new homes and does not call for retrofitting existing homes, Calfire officials said.

A public comment period expires on July 31 for the proposed map. The final map and regulations are for building permits that are applied for on and after Jan. 1, 2008, the agency said.

The new building regulations for very high fire severity zones include enclosed decks made of fire-resistant material, dual-paned tempered windows, fire-proof doors, roofs meeting fire-resistant standards and protected eaves and vents.

Some builders also expressed concerns.

“We don’t want to get bit two years down the road with insurance problems,” said Craig Souter, a builder representing the Nevada County Contractors Association.

Calfire estimated that the new regulations would only add $1,800 to the price of a new home, but some people were skeptical.

“I think that’s a very light figure,” Souter said. “When you’re talking about flame-ready siding and tempered glass windows, they’re expensive, and you’re adding thousands of dollars to the process.”

Insurance agents sided with Calfire.

“It’s not going to change things,” said Jeff Dunning, an agent with Allstate Insurance in Grass Valley. “It’s basically stating the obvious.”

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Who to contact

To find out where your property rests on the proposed fire hazard map, log on to http://www.fire.ca.gov/fireprone.

To give your input on the map process, log on to http://www.fire.ca.gov/wildland.php and look for the e-mail link. You can also send a letter to CDF-FRAP, P.O. Box 944246, Sacramento, CA 94244-2460.


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