Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone
The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (or “Zone”) was first established in the City of Los Angeles in 1999 and replaced the older “Mountain Fire District” and “Buffer Zone.” The “Zone” was carefully determined according to California State Law. For more about the establishment of the VHFHS Zone go to the VHFHS Zone History section of this page.
For a map of the VHFHS Zone click here.
Where is the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone Located?
How Do I find out if my property is in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone?
The Mountain Fire District was established in January 1963 as a direct result of the November 1961 Bel Air Fire. A total of 484 homes were lost during that conflagration.
In April of 1971, The Fire Buffer Zones were established as a direct result of the wind driven Chatsworth Fire in September of 1971 where 198 homes were destroyed or damaged.
In April of 1981 the Los Angeles Fire Department established the Brush Clearance Unit to coordinate and conduct inspection sweeps of the Mountain Fire District and to contract noncompliant properties to be cleared of hazardous brush.
In February of 1986, as a result of the 1985 Baldwin Hills Fire that destroyed 53 homes and killed three people, section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was amended to include Mount Washington, El Sereno and Baldwin Hills in the Brush Clearance Inspection Program.
In 1993, as a result of the Oakland Hills Fire in which 3,403 homes were lost, 780 in the first hour of the fire, the Bates Bill No.337 was enacted requiring local jurisdictions to identify and establish Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. The Los Angeles Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety joined with the Planning Section to conduct a survey utilizing the criteria established by the State Fire Marshal. The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone lies mostly within the boundaries of the Mountain Fire District and The Buffer Zone.
Subsequent to Assembly Bill No. 337, Assembly Bill Nos. 3819 and 747, which are more restrictive, have been enacted reinforcing the provisions of Assembly Bill No. 337.
In April of 1997, section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was amended to increase the clearance of hazardous vegetation to a total distance of 200 feet from any structure unless otherwise specified by the Chief.
The Amendment further added criteria for maintenance of landscape vegetation in such a condition as not to provide an available fuel supply to augment the spread or intensity of a fire. These criteria included, but were not limited to eucalyptus, acacia, palm, pampas grass, and conifers such as cedar, cypress, fir, juniper, and pine.
In February of 1999 section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was again amended, this time establishing a fee for inspections of properties in the City of Los Angeles to determine if a violation of this section exists.
When the fee was first introduced, it raised several other issues. The Fire Department was directed to re-evaluate the current Mountain Fire District and Buffer Zone to see if the boundaries drawn in 1961 and 1971 respectively were still valid. It was as a result of that assignment that the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone was established.
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