VERY HIGH FIRE HAZARD SEVERITY ZONE
The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (or “Zone”) was first established in the City of Los Angeles in 1999 and replaced the older “Mountain Fire District” and “Buffer Zone.” The “Zone” was carefully determined according to California State Law.
Where is the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone Located?
The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone comprises most of the hilly and mountainous regions of the City of Los Angeles. It includes portions of the following communities: Baldwin Hills, Bel Air Estates, Beverly Glen, Brentwood, Castellammare, Chatsworth, Eagle Rock, East Los Angeles, Echo Park, El Sereno, Encino, Glassel Park, Granada Hills, Hollywood, Lake View Terrace Los Angeles, Los Feliz, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Mount Olympus, Mount Washington, Pacific Palisades, Pacoima, Palisades Highland, Porter Ranch, San Pedro, Shadow Hills, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Studio City, Sunland, Sun Valley, Sylmar, Tarzana, Tujunga, West Hills, Westwood, Woodland Hills
To determine if your property is in the VHFHS zone, please refer to the Fire Zone Map.
What is the History of the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone?
The Mountain Fire District was established in January 1963 as a direct result of the November 1961 Bel Air Fire. A total of 484 homes were lost during that conflagration.
In April of 1971, The Fire Buffer Zones were established as a direct result of the wind driven Chatsworth Fire in September of 1971 where 198 homes were destroyed or damaged.
In April of 1981 the Los Angeles Fire Department established the Brush Clearance Unit to coordinate and conduct inspection sweeps of the Mountain Fire District and to contract noncompliant properties to be cleared of hazardous brush.
In February of 1986, as a result of the 1985 Baldwin Hills Fire that destroyed 53 homes and killed three people, section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was amended to include Mount Washington, El Sereno and Baldwin Hills in the Brush Clearance Inspection Program.
In 1993, as a result of the Oakland Hills Fire in which 3,403 homes were lost, 780 in the first hour of the fire, the Bates Bill No.337 was enacted requiring local jurisdictions to identify and establish Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. The Los Angeles Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety joined with the Planning Section to conduct a survey utilizing the criteria established by the State Fire Marshal. The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone lies mostly within the boundaries of the Mountain Fire District and The Buffer Zone.
Subsequent to Assembly Bill No. 337, Assembly Bill Nos. 3819 and 747, which are more restrictive, have been enacted reinforcing the provisions of Assembly Bill No. 337.
In April of 1997, section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was amended to increase the clearance of hazardous vegetation to a total distance of 200 feet from any structure unless otherwise specified by the Chief.
The Amendment further added criteria for maintenance of landscape vegetation in such a condition as not to provide an available fuel supply to augment the spread or intensity of a fire. These criteria included, but were not limited to eucalyptus, acacia, palm, pampas grass, and conifers such as cedar, cypress, fir, juniper, and pine.
In February of 1999 section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was again amended, this time establishing a fee for inspections of properties in the City of Los Angeles to determine if a violation of this section exists.
When the fee was first introduced, it raised several other issues. The Fire Department was directed to re-evaluate the current Mountain Fire District and Buffer Zone to see if the boundaries drawn in 1961 and 1971 respectively were still valid. It was as a result of that assignment that the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone was established.
In an attempt to increase public safety, the Fire Department and Department of Transportation have created a program to remove illegally parked vehicles in posted locations within the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. This program was implemented with the assistance of the City Council to remove vehicles that create a hazardous condition on Red Flag Days - days when winds are stronger than 25 mph, and humidity is less than 15%.
Station Commanders were asked to survey their district and identify critical areas where parked vehicles could delay citizens trying to evacuate and fire companies attempting to gain access during a brush fire. Station Commanders were asked to identify areas such as very narrow roads, hairpin turns, tight curves, and key intersections that if not cleared of vehicles would create a choke point. These were designated as the Red Flag areas and the Department of Transportation made 1700 new signs and placed them in these areas.
The goal of this program is to educate the public on the potential hazards associated with a fast-moving brush fire, and the importance of keeping roadways clear and traffic moving. The fire service has learned from incidents such as the Oakland Hills Fire and the Cedar Fire that citizens becoming trapped in their vehicles, while evacuating, can lead to a deadly catastrophe.