New Fire Maps: Are You at Risk?

Over 5,000 buildings--mostly houses--are in new fire hazard zones in Mission Viejo. Is your home one of them?

Thousands of Mission Viejo homes rest within very high fire danger areas, according to new maps drafted by state firefighters.

Most of the homes affected sit on the city's eastern border, north of the 241 toll road or near El Toro Road.

To see if your home is in one of the affected areas, click on the photos attached to this story.

The City Council has voted delay a vote that would approve a new "very high fire hazard" designation for those homes. Mayor Frank Ury and Councilman Dave Leckness did not vote because their homes are in or near the designated zones.

The new zones are much larger than those adopted in 1995, the last time such maps were drafted, Orange County Fire Authority Deputy Fire Marshall Brett Petroff said. He said the new maps reflect current science on what causes fires.

One of the main culprits, he said, are flying embers.

"Under the right conditions… fire transmits itself very rapidly causing—most importantly as we’ve seen in the last 20 years—flying embers," Petroff told the Council.

Will Insurance Rates Rise?

Several homeowners spoke against the new law, and many believed their  insurance rates would rise if the law is approved.

Joel Sugg, who lives in the Painted Trails neighborhood, said he feared the value of his home would drop if the law passed.

Mayor Pro Tem Rhonda Reardon said she suspects insurers will use the information to raise rates and drop some clients.

Petroff said such fears are unfounded. He said state firefighters asked the state insurance commissioner if the maps will be used to guide insurance underwriting decisions.

"We had a resounding 'no' answer when we asked,' Petroff said. Insurers prefer more accurate maps for their underwriting, he said.

What's next?

The council voted to send letters to the estimated 3,000 affected residents and further research the subject.

City Attorney Bill Curley described the new maps as a "catch-all," and said further study could find mistakes the state failed to notice.

"When you try to do a catch-all, inevitably there will be some over-reaching, some under-reaching," he said.

Petroff said he trusts the reliability of the state maps. He said of the houses burned in the 2010 Yorba Linda fire, 90 percent sat in very high risk hazard zones, with the other 10 percent in high or moderate risk zones.


Kime Goodrum February 07, 2012 at 07:59 PM
This very high hazard area seems to be a bunch of Bull to me, at least in the one they are showing us in. I live in the same area as Councilman Dave Leckness which is East of Felipe and South of OSO and the fire danger comes from the Santa Margarita River drainage to the east of us. But the vegetation that could burn is not very dense except at the bottom near where water runs all year long. Then as the brush turns to weeds the closer it gets to homes the weeds would burn and be gone is a flash. Couple that with the green belt surrounding the homes and that fact that the homes are stucco with tile roofs with little or no wood trim it seems almost impossible to me for one of them to catch fire. The law seems designed to get the County more Federal dollars and to give the insurance companies an excuse to raise rates.
Peter Schelden February 07, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Hi Kime, thanks for letting us know what you think. Do you think the new fire maps will end up raising your insurance rates?
Dan Avery August 22, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Actually Kime, it's not designed for that. And that brush you that so vividly described as being gone in a flash is the real problem. It does go. It a very hot flash. And if it's an ember that floats a half mile this way into an open garage...and enough of those flashes float into open garages because when people evacuate they always leave the garage door open...half of southern california could burn down.
Paul Ryan August 22, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Maybe we could just use a numbering system- 5= high danger 1=low, and keep the drama out of it. No more: 'Very incredibly High Fire Danger Bordering on Catastrophic Fire Zone- [VIHFDBCFZ]. '


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