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Planners to discuss expanding wildfire hazard zone Tuesday night

A proposal to expand the wildfire hazard zone to cover the entire city will be reviewed at tonight’s Ashland Planning Commission meeting. The proposed ordinance covers a variety of decrees to potentially reduce wildfire threats within the city. These decrees include prohibiting the planting of certain flammable plants within 30 feet of structures and establishing new standards of fire-safe construction for new structures within city limits.

The land-use amendment requires the removal of dead vegetation and combustible materials within five feet of new structures, trimming of large trees to provide a 10-foot clearance from the structure, and new roofs and fences to be fire resistant, including the prohibition of using wood-shakes as roofing.

Plants such as juniper, pine, blackberry shrubs and rosemary are on the proposed prohibited list. These flammable plants are not restricted in the areas of town that are not included in the wildfire hazard zones, but still pose a large threat.

According to Chris Chambers, Ashland forest division chief, there have been numerous residential fires that quickly grew to hazardous levels because of surrounding landscape. The most notable of these fires was the Oak Knoll fire in 2010, in which the fire jumped 1,100 ft across I-5.

Currently the wildfire hazard zone includes northwest Ashland (Fox Street to Upper Terrace Street), and south Ashland (Terrace Street to Green Meadows Way). It only includes 1,400 homes out of more than 10,000 in the city. Additionally, these lands lead to the Ashland Creek Watershed, the source of the city’s water. Areas not included in the hazard zone posses the same threat and encourage extreme fire behavior, according to staff report.

The original fire overlay zone was established in 1997. Ashland Fire and Rescue first proposed the ordinance to rezone the hazard area to the entire city to the City Council in April 2014. Mayor Stormberg then convened an ad hoc wildfire hazard committee made up of representatives from the Tree Commission, Planning Commission, Wildfire Mitigation Commission, Ashland Fire and Rescue and the Planning Department Staff to analyze potential strategies.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chamber at 1175 E. Main St.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

The Oak Knoll fire of 2010 is cited as and example of how the entire city of Ashland is subject to wildland fire threats, say backers of an expansion of regulations mandating certain fire-fighting precautions in new construction.{ } File Photo