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New wildfire risk map suggests California communities increasingly vulnerable

Thursday, December 15, 2022 | Sacramento, CA

A structure is destroyed along Michigan Bluff Road during the Mosquito Fire, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

By CapRadio Staff

After years of promising, Cal Fire has released new, updated maps to help residents determine if they live in a risky wildfire area.

The interactive Wildfire Hazard Severity Zone map is more than a decade in the making and comes after groups voiced criticism of Cal Fire, calling the department’s antiquated maps "pretty inexcusable."

The latest map indicates numerous California communities face moderate to high to very high fire risk.

Esri, NASA, NGA, USGS, FEMA | Esri Community Maps Contributors, California State Parks, Esri, HERE, Garmin, SafeGraph, GeoTechnologies, Inc, METI/NASA, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NPS, US Census Bureau, USDA
FHSZSRA DRAFT 23 1 Secure - FHSZSRA DRAFT 23 1: High
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-123.017 38.783 Degrees
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Fire Hazard Severity Zones in State Responsibility Area

In the Sacramento foothills and Sierra Nevada mountains, the communities near and east of Placerville along the Highway 50 corridor face "very high" risk, according to the map. These are near the areas where the Caldor Fire burned in 2021.

Farther north, miles of land surrounding towns such as Grass Valley and east of Oroville also face high risk.

"The updated map is the product of years of discussions and incorporates the latest science to provide a long-term outlook of an area’s wildfire hazard," CalFire’s Daniel Berlant, who focuses on wildfire preparedness and mitigation, wrote in a statement.

The new map, when looked at in addition to areas that have already burned CapRadio’s California Wildfire History Map, suggests increased vulnerability for many communities in wildland-urban interface areas.

The stakes for the new fire risk maps are also high. Government agencies rely on the maps and knowledge of CalFire’s hazard zones when making decisions on where new homes and businesses should be approved.

Residents whose homes are within high risk zones have to disclose this information when they sell their property. They also are required by a new California law to build out defensible space to keep their properties safer from wildfire.

Cal Fire has previously stated the new maps would be available in the first months of 2022.

Cal Fire is inviting residents to share feedback on the proposed maps during the coming months. Public comments can be submitted in writing to [email protected]. The department will also host public hearings in all California counties, and the information on those hearings are at Cal Fire’s website.

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