Proposed fire hazard map worries locals |

Proposed fire hazard map worries locals

Fears of increased building and insurance costs from a proposed state fire hazard map were expressed this morning at a hearing in Nevada County.

The proposed fire severity zones 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 levels for most of the south county.

The map is being updated to reflect new fire-safety building regulations in California that apply in the rural areas served by Calfire, and where very high fire hazards exist. The map is not final, and is open to public comment through July 31.

The regulations apply to new homes and remodels, Calfire officials said, and do not demand retrofitting existing homes. Calfire said the final map and regulations would be for building permits applied for on and after January 1, 2008.

State and regional Calfire officials were adamant the new map would not effect fire insurance rates, but some in attendance were not convinced.

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

“The reality is the insurance industry does not use these maps for decision making,” countered Wayne Mitchell of Calfire headquarters in Sacramento. “The insurance industry already uses detailed maps with travel times from fire stations,” to determine if and how policies will be written.

The insurance industry also uses computer data bases that can be fed addresses to identify fire risk areas as well, Mitchell said.

Craig Souter, a builder who was representing the Nevada County Contractors Association still wasn’t convinced.

“We don’t want to get bit two years down the road with insurance problems,” Souter said.

A Calfire estimation that the new fire-safe regulations would only add $1,800 to the price of a new home was also off base, Souter said.

“I think that’s a very light figure. 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.”

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.

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