Safety Element S-4: Fire Hazards
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the zone of transition between unoccupied land and human development is referred to as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The WUI zone is highly susceptible to wildfires because it is where built environment meets with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) estimates the length of fire season had increased by 75 days in 2020. In 2015, wildfires in Riverside County and nearby municipalities resulted in approximately $42 million worth of losses in residential and commercial properties. Riverside County Fire Department data indicate about 47 wildland fire incidents occur in the Menifee area every year; with careful planning, the number of fires can be reduced and their impact to the City of Menifee can be minimized. The burn area is estimated to decrease its average size from the 156.8 acres observed between the years 1961 through 1990 to 128.2 acres projected for the years 2035 through 2064.
Topography has considerable effect on wildland fire behavior and on the ability of firefighters and their equipment to take action to suppress those fires. A fire starting in the bottom of a canyon may rush quickly to the ridge and become large, before initial attack forces can arrive, simply because of topography.
In an effort to alleviate fire dangers near the interface between urban development and wildlands, the construction of fuel modification zones (firebreak, fuel break, or greenbelt) has been required. The continued application of this method does have drawbacks and, therefore, is not the only acceptable solution. Impacts on wildlife, unique vegetation, and, in some cases, to the watershed, can be impacted with fuel modification zones. Balancing fire prevention measure to reduce the level of risk to structures with wildland impacts must be developed with the design of each project.
Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones
The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones shown in Exhibit S-6 were established in 1996 to identify areas at the greatest threat of wildfires that require added precautions and protection. The designation is established based on the following criteria:
- Vegetation and its potential to burn over a 5-year time period
- Crown fire potential
- Ember production and movement
- Likelihood of an area burning over a 30 to 50-year time period
The California Building Code Chapter 7A requires that buildings constructed in areas identified as VHFHSZ must be built using fire-resistive features. Within the City of Menifee, certain roads, residential development, and commercial areas are currently located within the VHFHSZ.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has recommended that the urban, low-lying areas in Menifee be classified as having a Moderate Fire Hazard, whereas the hillside areas are generally classified as having a Very High Fire Hazard. The majority of the City’s VHFHSZ falls under local responsibility, however, a small portion falls under federal responsibility. The areas between the flatlands and the hillsides are classified as High Fire Hazard. Most of the low-lying areas within the City are located within local responsibility areas (LRAs); the hillsides are within either state or federal responsibility areas. Fire suppression responsibility for these areas is divided among local, state, and federal agencies, respectively (see Exhibit S-6, High Fire Hazard Areas). California state law requires that fire hazard areas be disclosed in real estate transactions.
- S-4: A community that has effective fire mitigation and response measures in place, and as a result is minimally impacted by wildland and structure fires.
- S-4.1: Require fire-resistant building construction materials, the use of vegetation control methods, and other construction and fire prevention features to reduce the hazard of wildland fire. Ensure all new development and/or redevelopment in the LRA and VHFHSZ will comply with the California Fire Code (CFC) and California Building Code (CBC). All new development within the LRA Very High Fire zone will comply with Chapter 49 of the California Fire Code and Chapter 7A of the California Building Code.
- S-4.2: Ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that fire services, such as firefighting equipment and personnel, infrastructure, and response times, are adequate for all sections of the City. The City will continue to coordinate with the Riverside County Fire Department, for Interagency coordination, to respond to emergency calls in Menifee and to provide training and ongoing programs for public education.
- S-4.3: Encourage owners of non-sprinklered high-occupancy structures to retrofit their buildings to include internal sprinklers.
- S-4.4: Review development proposals for impacts to fire facilities and compatibility with fire areas or mitigate.
- S-4.5: Coordinate with CalFire to ensure that Fire Hazard Severity Zone mapping is up to date.
- S-4.6: Coordinate with Eastern Municipal Water District to ensure adequate water availability for fire suppression.
- S-4.7: Encourage multi-family housing, group homes, or other community housing in SRAs, LRAs, or VHFHSZs to develop a policy to create emergency evacuation or shelter in place plans.
- S-4.8: When feasible locate new essential public facilities outside of high fire risk areas, including, but not limited to, hospitals and health care facilities, emergency shelters, emergency command centers, and emergency communications facilities, or identifying construction methods or other methods to minimize damage if these facilities are located in a state responsibility area or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.
- S-4.9: Ensure all new development and/or redevelopment within the SRA will comply with all provisions of Title 14, CCR, division 1.5, chapter 7, subchapter 3, article 3 (commencing with section 1299.01) (Fire Hazard Reduction Around Buildings and Structures Regulations) for SRAs and VHFHSZs.
- S-4.10: Ensure all new residential development as well as all new development and redevelopment within the LRA and VHFHSZ will comply with the most current version of the California Building Codes and California Fire Code.
- S-4.11: When feasible, the City will minimize all new residential, commercial, and industrial development in the VHFHSZ.
- S-4.12: All new development located in the LRA VHFHSZ shall be required to provide a site-specific Fire Protection Plan (FPP) and a Fuel Modification Plan that address fuel modification or incorporate open space and other defensible space areas, as well as multiple points of ingress and egress before approval.
- S-4.13: All new development within the LRA VHFHSZ shall be responsible for long-term maintenance of fire reduction projects; including but not limited to, a roadside fuel reduction plan (including private/public road clearance), defensible space clearances (including fuel breaks) around structures, subdivisions, and other development in the VHFHSZ.
- S-4.14: All new parcel maps and tentative maps in the LRA, SRA, and VHFHSZ shall provide two points of access to the project in conformance with the California Building Code and California Fire Code and CA GC 65302 (g)(5). Approval of parcel maps and tentative maps in LRA’s, SRAs or VHFHSZs is conditional based on meeting the SRA Fire Safe Regulations and the Fire Hazard Reduction Around Buildings and Structures Regulations, particularly those regarding road standards for ingress, egress, and fire equipment access. (See Gov. Code, § 66474.02.).
- S-4.15: When feasible, the City will prepare a survey of existing non-conforming developments to identify all existing developments within the City that do not provide two points of access/evacuation routes and identify measures or improvement plans to address opportunities to improve access. Where no additional access opportunities exist, the City and Fire Department should identify a plan for emergency operations in fire/emergency events.
- S-4.16: The City and Fire Department shall develop a policy or program promoting public outreach about defensible space and evacuation routes. The City and Fire District shall include specific plans to reach at risk populations.
- S-4.17: The City should ensure that all new development has adequate water, sewer, and fire protection consistent with the most current California Building Code and California Fire Code and will comply with the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection Fire Safe Regulations.
- S-4.18: The City shall evaluate all redevelopment as well as new development after a large fire event to ensure development will comply with the most current version of the California Building Codes and California Fire Code. The City and Fire Department will continue to coordinate with State, regional, and local agencies on emergency management and on fire risk reduction planning.
General Plan Exhibits
- Exhibit S-1: Fault Map
- Exhibit S-2: Slope Distribution
- Exhibit S-3: Liquefaction and Landslides
- Exhibit S-4: Geologic Map
- Exhibit S-5: Flood Hazards
- Exhibit S-6: High Fire Hazard Areas
- Exhibit S-7: Critical Facilities
- Exhibit S-8: Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and Public Facilities
- Exhibit S-9: Evacuation Routes