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State Minimum Fire Safe Regulations Go Into Effect April 1, 2023

March 10, 2023 Articles

The State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has been actively pursuing comprehensive new wildfire protection standards for development in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and State Responsibility Areas where the State of California is financially responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires. These State Minimum Fire Safe Regulations (“Regulations”) are intended to provide minimum standards for new commercial and residential construction and expansions to existing commercial construction in areas prone to destructive wildland fires. 

The Regulations provide minimum road access standards for fire apparatus and civilian evacuation in the event of an emergency. Other standards include, but are not limited to, measures to preserve undeveloped ridgelines, water supply reserves for emergency fire use, and vegetation management. They were originally anticipated to take effect on January 1, 2023. However, the Office of Administrative Law was delayed in its review and the Regulations will now officially become effective on April 1, 2023.

Issues of particular importance for development in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and State Responsibility Areas include:

  • New residential development such as single-family homes and accessory dwelling units must comply with the Regulations, unless otherwise protected by prior action.
  • Additions and expansions to existing single-family homes and accessory dwelling units, and to existing residential accessory structures such as garages and shade structures, are exempt from the Regulations.
  • New parcel and tentative maps (not including lot line adjustments) must comply with the Regulations.
  • New residential development requiring a use permit such as projects on steep slopes must comply with the Regulations. 
  • All non-residential development such as new and expanded wineries and hospitality uses must comply with the Regulations.
  • New and expanded driveways and roads must be designed to comply with the Regulations.
  • Construction on designated ridgelines is prohibited, with some exceptions for utility, agricultural, and similar unoccupied structures.
  • Generally, the dimensional standards remain unchanged requiring one 14’ lane with shoulders for driveways and two 10’ lanes with shoulders for roads; however, how these standards apply is significantly different depending on the distance of development from a compliant road, the length of the driveway or road, and secondary points of egress or dead-ends in the case of an emergency. 

Cities and counties with hillside development in designated Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and State Responsibility Areas are currently interpreting and revising local standards to comply with the Regulations. Farella will continue to monitor these efforts.  

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