The Planning Commission made the right call in sending on a proposal to expand the designated Wildfire Hazard Zone to encompass the entire city. Some details might warrant tweaking, but the overall concept is sound. Anyone who doubts that Ashland is at risk from a major wildfire need only reflect on how close the Klamathon fire came to sweeping down on the city.
The existing hazard zone encompasses the wildland-urban interface, where residential neighborhoods merge with the Ashland Watershed well above the boulevard. While that portion of the city is most vulnerable to catastrophic fire, it wouldn’t take much to push out-of-control flames down into the rest of town, and making structures throughout Ashland less vulnerable to fire is a prudent move.
Expanding the zone would bring with it new restrictions on the proximity of trees and other vegetation to new structures, and limit the types of vegetation allowed next to existing structures as well. Those restrictions drew some concern from planning commissioners in a meeting Tuesday, but the commission voted unanimously to send the proposed amendments to wildfire development standards on to the City Council next week.
The amendments would require the removal of vegetation on the city’s Prohibited Flammable Plant list from within five feet of new structures, decks or additions, and bar the new planting of prohibited plants within 30 feet of any structure — farther for steeper properties.
Making neighborhoods more fire resistant is well worth the temporary inconvenience to homeowners who might need to modify their landscaping.