Fire Hazard Map(s)?

Fire Hazard maps are critical to substantiating that there even is a hazard. The maps associated with this Plan don’t achieve that.


Map 1: Extracted from Citywide map

Map 1: Extracted from Citywide map

UCSF’s 19 October presentation included a map called City-Wide Wildfire Hazards. (Page 18 of the presentation.) Let’s call that Map 1. It showed red and yellow dots of Very High and High wildfire hazard, in a sea of green Moderate hazard. The resolution is poor, but there’s a splotch of red around Mt Sutro.

The map, prepared by private consultant URS, claimed its source was CDF FRAP Data, 2005. That would be the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CalFire.

CalFire looks at fire hazard in both the State Responsibility Area (the Presidio/Ocean Beach/ Fort Funston) and the Local Responsibility Area (everything else). CalFire has maps by county, showing areas of Very High Fire Hazard zones.

We opened up that map for San Francisco. Let’s call it Map 2. It shows Mount Sutro as a Moderate fire hazard, the lowest hazard rating. It’s the same rating as the Presidio and Lincoln Park Golf Course. Below that is “unzoned.” If you look carefully at the bottom of the map, there’s a small orange spot. That’s the edge of San Bruno mountain. It’s the only High fire hazard area on the map.

CalFire's San Francisco Map

Map 2: CalFire's San Francisco Map

Even though they are ostensibly from the same source, there is no way to reconcile the two maps. The source for Map 1 completely contradicts it.


And now for more maps, which we’ll call Map 3 and Map 3a.

Map 3 is the one used in the FEMA application, purporting to show Very High Fire Hazard on Mt Sutro. In fact, it showed two areas, one in the Forest Knolls neighborhood, and one in the Native Garden. Map 3 gave its source as ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments. At least on this occasion the map checked out with its listed source, even if the Fire Risk was on Warren Drive instead of in the forest. It was based on 2003 data.

ed 2 sutro ucsf map

Map 3: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2003 data

Then we were informed that the ABAG map had been updated in July 2009. We went back to the ABAG website, and here’s the updated map, which we’ll call #3a. The red spots have shifted; the one on Warren Drive is gone. This time there are some in the UCSF forest, but they aren’t in the planned cut zones. They’re on the northern ridge and the western ridge – where trails have been built in recent years. None of these areas are the target areas for the planned tree-felling: South Ridge and Edgewood.

July 2009

Map 3a: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2009 data

If Maps #3 and #3a are reliable, it would indicate that all the trail-building in recent years has opened the forest and increased the fire hazard.

Why would UCSF want to drastically increase the fire hazard by gutting 14 acres of forest?


UCSF did try to explain the map confusion on October 19, but we were left even more confused. They said that when they put in the FEMA application, they relied on Map#3 (based on 2003 data) because that’s all they had.

Based on that map, there should have been no FEMA application, because the only fire-hazard it showed was in the Native Garden, easily fixed by turning on the irrigation system.

They explained – something ?- by saying that whichever agency published the map didn’t have responsibility for UCSF’s forest. Since all four maps do have coverage of Mt Sutro, this left us even more confused.


1) Map #1 is contradicted by the Source it lists, CalFire.

2) Map #2 is a draft map showing Moderate risk on Mount Sutro. CalFire updated it by saying it had determined there were no areas of Very Severe Fire Hazard in the Local Responsibility Area.

3) Map#3, the basis for the FEMA application, doesn’t indicate a fire-hazard in the project areas.

4) Map# 3a, the updated version of Map#3, suggests that the proposed project is precisely the wrong way to mitigate fire risk.

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