FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – On Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued guidance for building new housing developments in fire-prone areas of the state.

Officials say climate change has increased wildfire activity across California. Eight of the 10 largest wildfires in California history, including the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties, have occurred in the past decade.

Therefore, Bonta said it is imperative that local governments take into account wildfire mitigation practices when considering new development projects.

Bonta said he is hoping to offer guidance to local governments in order to minimize the impacts of wildfire ignition, emergency access, and evacuation plan in order to protect the residents and the environment.

The climate crisis is here, and with it comes increasingly frequent and severe wildfires that force mass evacuations, destroy homes, and lead to tragic loss of life. We must build in a way that recognizes this reality. This guidance is intended to provide local governments with concrete considerations and specific mitigation measures for new developments in wildfire prone areas so that five, 10, or 20 years down the line, we aren’t faced with a catastrophe that could have been avoided.

Attorney General Bonta

The guidance sets out best practices and wildfire-mitigation measures, including:

  • Project Density: Project density influences how likely a fire is to start or spread, and how likely it is that the development and its occupants will be in danger when a fire starts. Local governments should strive to increase housing density and consolidate design, relying on higher-density infill developments as much as possible.
  • Project Location: Land placement in the landscape relative to fire history, topography, and wind patterns influences wildfire risk. Local governments should limit development along steep slopes and rugged terrain to decrease exposure to rapid fire spread and increase accessibility for fire-fighting.
  • Water Supply and Infrastructure: To evaluate a project’s wildfire risk impacts, local governments should analyze the adequacy of water supplies and infrastructure to address fire fighting within the project site. Local governments should consider requiring on-site water supply or storage to augment ordinary supplies that may be lost during a wildfire.
  • Evacuation and Emergency Access: Evacuation modeling and analysis should be completed prior to the development’s approval and include evaluation of the capacity of surrounding roadways, project impacts on existing evacuation plans, and proximity to existing fire services, among other factors. Local governments should consider placing developments close to existing roads and evacuation infrastructure, and where appropriate, constructing additional roads to facilitate evacuations.
  • Fire Hardening Structures and Homes: A home hardening has been shown to be an extremely effective measure for preventing structure loss during a wildfire. Local governments should require developers to upgrade building materials and use installation techniques to increase the development’s resistance to heat, flames, and embers beyond what is required in applicable building codes.