Thursday, September 8, 2016

Plumas County Taking Steps to Protect Homes Built in the "Stupid Zone"

Valley Fire destroys home in community of Seigler Springs in California, 2015.  Photo: Marcus Yam, LA Times

We are living in “Stupid Zones,” a term coined by the late Ed Quillen, a humorist and Denver Post columnist who used the term to lampoon areas where experts have identified one hazard or another and determined that they are dumb places to build houses. 

Jane Braxton Little reminds us of this funny yet sobering term in her recent article about whose responsibility it ought to be if we exercise our private property rights to build a home in the wildland-urban interface.

The Stupid Zone evolved over decades as landowners were encouraged to develop remote forested areas.  It was an era when the common belief was that we could and should, control wildfire.  Today, Little points out, the science makes it clear that this thinking is flawed. 

Local officials are starting to get it.  Plumas County has more homes in the WUI than any other Northern California county - 7,494. Plumas officials have taken significant steps to ensure that additional homes will not be built in the Stupid Zones. 

Developers of new subdivisions are now required to provide a variety of Firewise-type improvements to help protect homes during wildland fires. Two access roads and structural fire protection are just a couple of the new requirements.

Plumas officials stopped short of prohibiting building in the WUI but the current dilemma begs the question - if we choose to build a home outside of fire protection boundaries, in a wildfire prone area, should we be responsible for the costs of defending our home?  Quillen would say yes.  

Read her full article here
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