Meeting Summary

Humboldt County Fire Safe Council (FSC)

March 10, 2003

Previous Menu

Members Attending
Members Absent
Others Attending
Bob Burnham: Risk Assessment Presentation
Goals & Objectives
General Plan (Volume I)
Carl Pellutz: Fire Insurance Costs Presentation
Education Activities
Next Meeting

The third meeting of the Humboldt County Fire Safe Council (FSC) was held on March 10, 2003, from 1:10 P.M. to 4:25 P.M., at the U.S. Forest Service Six Rivers National Forest conference room, 1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka, California. The FSC was appointed by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to guide preparation of the County Master Fire Protection Plan (MFPP).

Fire Safe Council Members Attending:

Dick Goings, Cal. Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) Unit Chief and County Fire Warden

Kirk Gothier, Humboldt County Community Development Services, Assistant Planning Director

Will Harling, Orleans/Somers Bar Fire Safe Council and Orleans Fire & Rescue

Frank Hizer, Fortuna Fire Protection District, Fire Chief

Debra Lake, Fruitland Volunteer Fire Department, Board Chair

Glenn Ziemer, Humboldt Fire District #1, Assistant Fire Chief

Lucy Salazar, USFS, Six Rivers National Forest, Vegetation Management & Air Coordinator

Ian Sigman, Honeydew Volunteer Fire Company and Lower Mattole Fire Safe Council

Dave White, Arcata Fire Department and Humboldt County Fire Chiefs Association Representative

Fire Safe Council Members Absent:

Gary Risling, Hoopa Fire Department, Wildlands Fire Manager

Public and Agency Representatives Attending:

Evans Cook, Petrolia Volunteer Fire Department (and Lower Mattole FSC)

Tracy Katelman, Lower Mattole Fire Safe Council.

Kevin O’Neil, CDF District Chief

Carl Pellatz Independent Insurance Agent and volunteer with Arcata Fire Department (presenter)

Kim Price, CDF, Fire Captain and Pre-fire Planner

Stephen Underwood, California Department of Parks and Recreation

Judy Wells, USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service

Michael Wood, Institute for Sustainable Forestry

County Fire Safe Council Coordinator / Master Fire Protection Plan Consultant

George Williamson, Planwest Partners, Principal Planner

Bob Burnham, RNB Spatial Data Inc., Chief Operations Officer

Cris Plocher, Planwest Partners, Planner

Call to Order and Introductions

The meeting was called to order at 1:10 P.M. by the Fire Safe Council Chair, Dick Goings and self introductions were made by the Council members and the audience.

The FSC Coordinator, George Williamson with Planwest Partners, reviewed the meeting agenda. Each FSC member received an information packet prior to the FSC meeting. The Coordinator referred to the Humboldt County Fire Safe Council Public Distribution List (Attachment 1) and Humboldt County Local Fire Organizations List (Attachment 2), then asked FSC members to check for any corrections needed to be made to the list. It was noted that the new fire chief for Petrolia FPD/VFD is Renee Jacobsen (ph. 629-3558). In addition, the FSC Coordinator pointed out that 16 out of the 41 local fire organizations have responded to the fire survey. The goal is to have 100% participation with the assistance of the Fire Chiefs Association. The fire survey strives to update the fire service area maps for service capabilities and gather basic fire organization/resource information to promote coordination and communication.

The fire survey information will be used in updating the County General Plan and preparing the Municipal Services Review (MSR) Report and Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) Sphere of Influence Report Update. At the next FSC meeting, an update will be given on the responses to the local fire organization survey. It was suggested that this information be placed on the County, Planwest and/or State Fire website. Next, the FSC Coordinator asked the FSC members to review the meeting summary of the February 10 FSC meeting (Attachment 3). Several revisions were made.


Presentation on Risk Assessment and Communities At Risk by Bob Burnham

Bob Burnham, RNB, presented information on Communities At Risk. The definition of Communities at Risk is the potential for community loss in terms of lives, property/structure, or economic base, in the event of a catastrophic wildfire. Bob presented three different lists of Humboldt County Communities At Risk (Attachment 4):


Humboldt County Federal Register List;

State & Federal Agency List; and

Humboldt County FSC Potential Candidate List.

These lists are provided as a starting point for discussion of community risk issues, and identification of other communities that should be considered for the lists. Bob presented three large maps to the FSC identifying the communities at risk according to topography, fuels, and weather, and also based on fire history. Bob asked the FSC members to review the Communities at Risk lists and maps and suggest other communities for potential listing. Bob will be providing a Communities at Risk update at the next FSC meeting.

The FSC discussion included a comment that urban and structural fire issues should be addressed, and not just focus on wildland fires for the General County Plan update. It was also noted that medical aid calls are ten times more frequent than fire responses. There was also discussion about the definitions of fire related terminology. The following terms were discussed:

Hazard – something that burns;

Risk – the point of potential fire ignition; and

Act– something which causes a spark that starts a fire.

A FSC member asked about how the fire survey is going to be used in the identification of communities at risk. The fire survey will be used to identify communities with fire service area gaps and insufficient fire resources. The fire survey information will ultimately be used to update an element of the County’s General Plan and update Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) Sphere of Influence Reporting.

It was mentioned by a FSC member that Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings may provide information, including fire ratings and how they are determined.

In addition, Bob Burnham noted that there is more time than initially thought to comply with FEMA Disaster Management Act (DMA) compliance. The original DMA hazard mitigation plan deadline of November 2003, has been extended to November 2004. That means the scheduled completion of the County’s Master Fire Protection Plan, in Spring 2004, will precede FEMA’s deadline.


Master Fire Protection Plan Goals and Objectives

The FSC Coordinator reviewed the second draft of the MFPP Goals and Objectives (Attachment 5) identified by the FSC membership. The definition of a goal is a general, overall, and ultimate purpose or aim that will guide the FSC’s long range strategic planning efforts. The definition of an objective is a measurable statement of a desired future condition toward which strategic planning efforts are directed and is time specific, concise and achievable. Any goal can have multiple objectives. The MFPP goals and objectives are intended to reflect the County’s role in fire safe planning. The MFPP draft goals identified by the FSC so far include:

Fire Protection,

Local Organizational Support,

Risk Assessment and Allocation of Fire Protection Resources,

Fuel Load Reduction and Modification Activities,

Fire Prevention and Public Education, and

Community Fire Prevention and Resource Protection Funding and Technical Assistance. Discussion followed.

The following change was recommended to the (second draft) Fire Plan Goals and Objectives.

Objective 3.3 – Separate this objective into two separate objectives, one for wildlands and one for urban.


Humboldt County General Plan – Framework Plan (Volume 1)

The FSC Coordinator discussed the County’s Framework Plan (Volume 1, 1985) for the General Plan pertaining to Goals and Objectives for fire protection. The Framework Plan’s Chapter 3 title is Hazard and Resources and Chapter 4 title is Public Services and Facilities. Discussion followed about updating Chapter 4 language in the Background section to reflect current conditions and the FSC’s proposed fire service/protection goal and policies, as follows:

Background: Delete (or revise) the last sentence of the third paragraph in the Background section since it is outdated. Currently, CDF provides structural fire service/protection in Humboldt County for only the Community Service Area (CSA) #4.

Goal: Revise the goal to say, "assure adequate fire protection for new and existing development".

Policy #3: Include the words, "Humboldt County should encourage the use of prescribed burning and fuel reduction methods as a management tool......and for fuel reduction as a vital element in fire protection and hazard reduction especially around communities."

Policy #4: Since the County currently has a relatively strict ordinance based on the (1953) CDF "Fire Safe Guides" for reviewing residential development in rural areas, it is recommended that this County Ordinance be referenced instead of the CDF "Fire Safe Guides".

Policy #6 (new): Add a new policy: Assist local fire organizations with securing sufficient fire fighting funds for resources such as equipment, communications, training, education, and operations to respond to emergencies.

It was noted that some County special permits allow exceptions to the rule for proper road turn-arounds. This may potentially cause access problems for emergency and firefighting vehicles.

Another FSC member noted that additional water supply in some rural areas is being restricted by the Coastal Commission (and not so much the County) to limit development. This action could place fire protection service at a disadvantage. It was suggested to use land designations, not water supply limitations, be considered to limit development, thus allowing sufficient water supplies in rural areas to meet fire suppression needs.


Presentation by Carl Pellatz on Fire Insurance Coverage and Costs

Carl Pellatz is a volunteer with the Arcata Fire Dept. and an independent insurance agent. He presented information to the FSC on the status of fire insurance. Mr. Pellatz said that the insurance industry is in a difficult situation, culminating from the 9-11-01 terrorist attack and followed by significant stock market losses. As a result, a major insurance carrier (State Farm) stopped writing new home insurance policies in California and other states. Also, California’s new insurance commissioner is tightening the regulations belt. Therefore all the other insurance companies have underwriting requirements, especially for those with residential units of four or less.

Currently, insurance companies use computer programs not maps to determine Insurance Services Office (ISO) fire rating. Some companies are using zip code and address. In the past they used merit manuals. In these times, it would be good for homeowners to review their home insurance policies, especially the co-insurance clause which enforces the 80% or 90% of replacement cost to ensure home value. Age of home and upgrades (electrical, roof, heating, plumbing) are determining factors.

Fire protection rating is from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best rating and 10 being the worst. In determining the fire rating and whether to provide insurance coverage, several factors are considered:

loss history;

distance to fire stations and fire hydrant;

water supply and response time/# of fire fighters; and

fire equipment and alarm/paging system.

There is significant cost difference between policy premiums for homes with ISO rating of class 4 versus class 9. For example, a home valued at $180,000 with a large deductible of $100, would be $91 under fire protection class 4 compared to $1,418 under fire protection class 9. It would make little difference in the fire rating if a community were placed on the "Communities At Risk" list.

The best thing that the local fire organizations/FSC can do is to:

dissuade development in areas with a fire protection class rating (ISO) of 8 or higher;

strategically place fire stations to reduce fire ratings for the surrounding area; and

encourage use of sprinkler system in structures.


Fire Planning and Educational Activities

The FSC Coordinator asked the Council members how active they would like to be in Fire Safety Week. It was noted that in May is the Wildland Fire Safety Week (May 5-11), whereas in October is the Structural Fire Safety Week (Oct. 5-11). CDF has a media campaign plan in process for the Wildland Fire Safety Week in May. Tracy Katelman mentioned that she can contact the news and media about seeking their interest in doing a fire protection story in conjunction with Fire Safety Week.

The status of the "Living With Fire" newspaper insert was discussed. The cost to prepare and publish the insert will be approximately $7,500 more or less for about 40,000 copies to be placed in the Sunday newspaper prior to Fire Safety Week (May 4-9). So far about $3,000 has been pledged. The FSC Coordinator mentioned that he discussed this matter with Kirk Gothier, County Planning representative, and determined that a portion of the FSC budget, about $500, could be applied towards the insert. The FSC Coordinator will write-up a one page educational piece on the Fire Safe Council planning process and related topics of interest. Kirk Gothier also mentioned that the FSC budget has funds set aside for FSC public meetings, and confirmed that a portion of this money could be used to contribute to the newspaper insert, though it would deplete available public meeting funds. A FSC member supported use of funds for the insert. The FSC Coordinator will contact Regina Moon, the Forest Service staff person coordinating the insert.

On March 31 there will be a meeting to prepare the insert (with all text and graphics in jpg format received by this date). Prior to March 31, Regina Moon will need to know if funding will be in place for the insert. The insert then will go to the Times - Standard on April 7th for printing.


Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 7, 2003, from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. to be held at the USFS Six Rivers National Forest conference room.


The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4:25 P.M.