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Urban Forest Debated
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera

Eucalyptus grove on Stratford Court.
Photo Fire Marshal Anita Pupping

To rate the potential fire hazard of a stand of Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees along the southern end of Stratford Court, fire officials used urban fuels mapping models developed by scientists at the U.C Berkeley Center for Fire Research and Outreach. Captain Brian Barkley, Fire Captain with CalFire Land Use Planning, along with Fire Marshal Anita Pupping assessed the plant and tree materials of this specific coastal locale at the request of an attorney representing the Del Mar Woods Home Owners Association to our City Manager and City Council.

According to Fire Chief Michael Daigle, CAL FIRE uses an extension of the Fire Hazard Severity Zone model as the basis for evaluating fire hazard. The hazard rating considers flame and ember intrusion from adjacent wild lands and from flammable vegetation in the urban area. Based upon the location of the examined properties on Stratford, potential hazards, weather conditions such as humidity and potential ignition sources it was determined that these properties are not in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.

Since the neighboring community has had many years of concerns about this area of urban forest, Fire Marshal Pupping required the homeowner at 110 Stratford Court to implement mitigation measures, which were undertaken a month prior to the evaluation by Captain Barkley. These were later inspected by a consulting I.S.A Certified Arborist, Larry C. Holmes referred by Eric Minicilli, Public Works Director.

Mr. Holmes, the consulting arborist, concluded that: these Eucalyptus trees are very mature, and if neglected could be a fire safety hazard due to their location in respect to structures; these trees provide a privacy screen for both properties, however, they do block views for residents of the neighboring community; if the stand or grove of trees were located within 100 feet of a Native Open Space with weeds and native plant material, then this area would be classified as Moderate Fire Hazard Zone.

Mr. Holmes advised a maintenance plan suitable to the needs of this large property and one that the Fire Department will continue to monitor for compliance. Captain Barkley confirmed that the mitigation efforts accomplished were more than he would have required from properties in the forest areas. The broad message to our community from Captain Barkley is that all property owners have a responsibility to do their due diligence in minimizing the potential of fires and implementing mitigation measures. The question remains whether the worries of the neighbors have been mitigated.


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