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June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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Plumas County Grand Jury Report Page 18 This report only identifies problems that the Advisory Committee felt could be dealt with fairly easily and in a short timeframe. There are others that will require more effort and time. Included are general recommendations for corrective actions to these problems for the Board's consideration. These recommendations are intended to serve as a framework for Fire Protection Improvement Standards for Plumas County. In-depth analysis and detailed explanations of each issue and their recommend corrective actions are not provided here. Those are expected to occur during discus- sions for each of the actions the Board agrees to accept. Implementation of recommendations may require a combination of Board Policy, code adop- tion or adjustments, public education or other activities. Issues have been identified that pertain to a) existing homes and communities, b) new home construction in existing County approved subdivisions, and c) new subdivision development (>5 units). Issues and recommendations are being made in four areas: 1. Building and Construction 2. Access 3. Hazardous Vegetation 4. Community Planning & Development A. Issues that create impacts to County Emergency Services 1. Building and Construction A. Plumas County presently allows residents with existing shake roofs to obtain a permit from for repair/replacement of up to 50% the roof with like kind. Consequently residents wishing to continue having a shake roof can accomplish their desires in 2 years. This perpetuates a risk of structure ignition, as wood shake roofs are the number one cause of home loss in wildfires. S. Unprotected propane regulators can be impact- ed by snow loads causing threats to humans and structures. C. Structures are being constructed and retrofit- ted with automatic generators that come on when the power is turned off that may threaten firefighter safety. D. Construction and reconstruction of decks on existing structures and decks in new construc- tion in Local Responsibility Areas (LRA), or low and moderate fire hazard in the State Responsibility Areas (SRA) are not covered under the 2008 California WUI building code and therefore there are no regulations governing their flammability or structural integrity in fire conditions, posing a risk to firefighter safety. E. Fire Departments are concerned with their abil- ity to protect & suppress structure fires in very large homes in areas without hydrant systems. 2. Access A. Homes are currently being remodeled or sold which do not comply with California and Pluma. County requirements for address (road & house) signing (PRC 4290), often making responses difficult and longer. S. Homes are currently being constructed in Plumas County that do not comply with California's requirements for Fire Safe Driveways (PRC 4290), making emergency responses more difficult. C. Plumas County has no requirements for the opening of gates to access homes or communi- ties during an emergency creating a risk to public safety and difficulty for emergency responders. D. Many homes in Plumas County have addresses that are not tied to their structure's access point, making emergency responses difficult and/or longer. 3. Hazardous Vegetation A. Many homes in Plumas County do not comply with defensible space requirements (PRC 4291). Local enforcement of PRC 4291 is limited to non-existent and the citing process cumber- some. This places homes, citizens and fire fight- ers at higher risks. B. Subdivisions exist with extremelyjaazardous fuel conditions in common areas and on vacant lot parcels which provide a continual threat to existing homes and public safety, and may pre- vent adjacent homeowners from attaining their 100' of defensible space. 4. Community Planning & Development A. Plumas County Fire Chiefs have the responsi- bility for increased fire protection with increased development, which creates addition- al impacts and an increase on the demand for their services, but they have no authority to specify requirements in the planning approval process, as they can only make suggestions. S. There have been a number of existing or planned Subdivisions outside of a fire protec- tion district that are either left unprotected, or are impacting surrounding fire departments that may end up responding as good neighbors. Yet those departments receive no tax base or voice in the levels of service, for areas out of district. C. New citizens of Plumas County who move here and purchase homes and property appear to not always be aware or informed on who provides their fire protection, what their insurance rat- ing is or what the wildland fire risk is until something happens. D. PRC 4290 requires 2,500 gallon water tanks for all new home construction when a communi- -ty water system does not exist in subdivi- sions. Currently Plumas County does not require them for subdivisions approved before 1991. This creates a situation where there is no water available for fire suppres- sion in entire communities, even as new homes are being constructed, posing a risk for increased fire size, structure loss and fire- fighter safety. E. Fire Itydrants in the County are not standard- ized, creating difficulty with assisting units in mutual aid incidents. F. Some subdivision zoning has allowed for the construction of large subdivisions (with numer- ous homes) with the use of lower class roads that limit emergency vehicle response and adequate ingress and egress during an emergency. G. Subdivision maps have been approved for roads that allow Hammerhead T's in communities where the Fire Chief believes it will restrict emergency vehicle access. Ho Subdivisions have been approved with extreme- ly hazardous fuel conditions and then placing the burden for treatments on each new individ- ual property owner. This usually precludes economy of scale and treatment options, as well as taking away the opportunity for leveraging of forest product values from all of the develop- ment. It generally leads to communities not being treated to a fire resilient condition. B. Recommendations to mitigate identified issues that create impacts to County Emergency Services 1. Building and Construction A. Plumas CounOpresentl allows residents with existing shake roofs to obtain a permit from for repair/replacement of up to 50% the roof with like kind. Consequently residents wishing to continue having a shake roof can accomplish their desires in 2 years. This per- petuates a risk of structure ignition, as wood shake roofs are the number one cause of home loss in wildfires. Re0mmendation: Adopt the Shake. Roof Ordinance amendment proposed in 2007 which does not allow building permits for maintenance or repair of greater than 20% of a wood shake roof and require all new roofs be Class A. B. Unprotected propane regulators can be impact- ed by snow loads causing threats to humans & structures. Recommendations: 1) Require all propane regulators be protected under a snow shed device, roof structure, or device which provides protection. 2) Prior to building inspectors signing off permits, require certification that propane regulators are protected under a snow shed device, roof struc- ture, or device which provides protection. C. Structures are being constructed and retrofit- ted with automatic generators that come on when the power is turned off that may threaten firefighter safety. Recommendations: 1) Require a warning sticker in or on the main electrical box with the location of the generator identified for all structures with automatic gen- erators. 2) Prior to building inspectors signing off per- mits, require certification of warning stickers for those structures with automatic generators. D. Construction and reconstruction of decks on existing structures and decks in new construc- tion in Local Responsibility Areas (LRA), or low and moderate fire hazard in the State Responsibility Areas (SRA) are not covered under the 2008 California WUI building code and