Fire Protection Plan: Fuel Modification Zones Doubled

We’ve heard concern from nearby residents pertaining to fire and we assure you that the proposed Safari Highlands Ranch (SHR) development has been designed with fire protection as a key goal.

Last July, we presented the City of Escondido Fire Department with the SHR Fire Protection Plan (FPP). The purpose of the FPP is to evaluate the potential impacts resulting from wildland fire hazards and identify the measures necessary to mitigate those risks. In addition, our recommendations are consistent with the lessons learned from After Fire Action Reports from numerous fires occurring over the last 20 years, including the 2003, 2007 and 2010 San Diego County Fires.

While our FPP offers a compressive approach to fire protection, we’ll focus specifically on fuel modification zones (FMZ) in this post. As background, FMZ are areas of land where combustible vegetation has been removed or modified to provide protection to structures from wildfires. These play a crucial role in protecting structures and reducing the spread of wildfires. We’re excited to share that SHR will use twice the amount of FMZ than typically required.

The FPP was prepared by Dudek’s Principal Fire Protection Planner, Michael Huff, who is also a certified forester and wildland fire ecologist, and San Diego County qualified fire protection planner.

“The project’s FMZ will occur throughout the developed portions of the project as a buffer at the perimeter of developed areas and roads, and is up to two times as wide as the standard. FMZ will be 200 feet wide where the fire risk analysis indicates it will provide necessary buffer from the open space areas,” explained Huff. “In addition to extending the FMZ, the irrigated Zone 1, which is closest to the structures, will be extended to 100 feet wide, double the standard and providing additional ignition resistant landscaping.”

We have moved the FMZ closer to the homes so only non-combustible materials can be used in the back and side yards near the homes. This increases the fire safety exponentially! Having Zone 1 near the homes ensures there will be proper landscape spacing from the homes. In addition, maintenance will occur as needed and the HOA will hire a third-party, qualified FMZ inspector annually to provide yearly certification so it continues to meet the requirements of the FPP.

It’s important to recognize that the site, in its current condition, includes characteristics that have the potential to facilitate fire spread. Under extreme conditions, wildfires from the northeast and east could burn toward the site and result in significant ember production. With the addition of FMZ’s, the proposed development will be significantly easier to defend. Our site will actually stop the fire from continuing because of SHR’s defensible areas. If the project is developed and a future fire approaches from the East, SHR is an effective fire break for RSP and Rancho Vistamonte. Once the project is built, the on-site fire potential will be lower than its current condition due to conversion of wildland fuels to managed landscapes.

It’s important to us to place the utmost importance on safety!