Is wildfire a threat to this land?
The Oak Fire west of Yosemite National Park is at least 67% contained. The McKinney Fire near the California-Oregon border had zero containment as of Monday, August 2.
As these wildfires rage out of control and cause immense devastation, Petaluma has been fortunate and spared from recent fires. Are wildfires a possibility for our future?
The Petaluma Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) developed in 2020 answers some of the questions that the public has about wildfires:
How have wildfires affected Petaluma?
In September 2021, the Ormsby fire in Penngrove (northeast of Petaluma) was extinguished before spreading into the city. A 135-acre fire near the county line and a few small vegetation fires last month near Highway 101 serve as a reminder of the danger the Petaluma area faces.
Wildfires in surrounding areas, even a few counties away, can create significant impacts to the City such as those stemming from intense smoke, which can then lead to poor air quality, traffic visibility issues, and public health concerns.
LHMP, p. 4-71:
What areas have a high or very high fire threat?
The areas of the City with high or very high fire threat, which in turn pose the highest risk to life and property, are located on the south of the Planning Area, near Windsor Drive. However, all of the City’s parcels falling fire hazard severity zones are in the “moderate” zone, with 1,015 parcels vulnerable to wildfire (within LRA as defined by CAL FIRE).
LHMP, p. 4-90
Where is the Davidon / Scott Ranch project located?
This project is located in the "south of the Planning Area near Windsor Drive."
How much of Petaluma population is at risk from wildfire?
2,466 population is at risk from wildfire
LHMP, p. 4-90
Why are over 2,466+ population at risk of wildfire?
Hundreds of homes are in the Wildland Urban Interface area (WUI)— a designation for areas with dense housing adjacent to vegetation that can burn in a wildfire. The City of Petaluma Fire Prevention Bureau identifies this area as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone as identified on the city website and defined in Section 17.20.020 of the Petaluma Municipal Fire Code.
Does increasing urbanization of the Planning Area make wildfires more of a probability?
Wildfire vulnerability is a growing issue, as future development in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) will increase risk to this hazard citywide.
What does the Davidon / Scott Ranch environmental report say about wildfire risk and building in the WUI?
" . . . the proposed project would improve existing conditions (without the proposed project), reduce the risk of wildfires, and facilitate quick containment, so that fire would not spread quickly within the residential portion of the site and nearby residential subdivisions.” 2021 DEIR, p 4.15-29
Question to the city:
The project site is a small section of a very large WUI. The Scott Ranch housing would adhere to strict fire safety regulations and reduce the risk of wildfires. What about the nearby residential subdivisions and homes, which were built when fire safety was not a consideration in building materials or landscaping?
How does the FEIR (and city) answer our question?
"This topic is beyond the scope of this analysis and does not raise issues concerning the adequacy or accuracy of the RDEIR's coverage of environmental imparts under CEQA. Surrounding properties are not part of the proposed project." p. 4.0-81
If a fire breaks out in this WUI, high-risk area of Petaluma, how do people evacuate?
The subdivisions of Victoria and Victoria Residential have one evacuation road: Windsor Drive. The proposed Davidon subdivision has one evacuation road: Windsor Drive. We also asked how many cars per household were expected to evacuate during a fire.
How does the FEIR answer our questions?
"All vehicles are assumed to evacuate during one hour, while it is more likely that evacuating vehicles would be spread out over multiple hours. . . ." p. 3.0-59
No mention is made of traffic on Windsor Drive.
"The share of evacuees using multiple vehicles would be on the higher end . . . from 1.75 to 1.89."
Does building in this high risk area make sense?
Residents are anxious about fuels conditions on large tracts of land near or abutting their homes, especially lands managed by State and County Parks (p. 42 in Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan report). The Davidon park property will be managed by the County Parks.
However, to Davidon, it makes prefect sense to build in this Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. Davidon has been trying to get these houses built for 18 years. So what if it is a high risk area? Everything can be mitigated. So what if an existing 2,466 people are already at risk from wildfire? That is not part of the environmental analysis. The Davidon homes are resistant to fires. Depending on the traffic flow on Windsor Drive, these 53 additional cars (1.89 vehicles X 28 homes) can easily escape to D Street.
Who cares about the existing residents? Not Davidon. They will build the houses and send the money back to Walnut Creek.