One More Time: Fire Hazard? (FEMA notes UCSF’s inaccuracy)

Recently, we received a letter obtained by a public records request from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). UCSF had applied to this organization for pre-disaster mitigation funds to chop down trees on 14 acres of the forest, claiming the forest was a very severe fire hazard.

Dated October 1, 2009, the 5-page FEMA letter noted all the ways in which the UCSF application failed to substantiate an actual fire hazard – or show that cutting down trees and removing the understory would mitigate the hazard.

THOSE FIRE HAZARD MAPS – AGAIN

The letter pointed out that CalFire gives Mount Sutro a “moderate” fire hazard rating, which is its lowest rating. Meanwhile, the map in the application – the URS map from the CDF report (which claims CalFire as a source) – purports to give a “Very Severe Fire Hazard.”(We had a whole post devoted to this map confusion – which was further complicated by the addition of two other maps…)

FEMA actually talked with CalFire about the discrepancy. Their conclusion:

  1. “UCSF inaccurately interprets” the map. (I.e, they’re not getting it right.)
  2. “…the map cannot be used to identify the hazard.” (I.e, it doesn’t show fire hazard.)
  3. The CalFire map “more aptly characterizes the actual wildfire hazard…” (I.e. the CalFire map is the one to use.)

At the July 2010 community meeting, we were surprised to see UCSF again present the very same map that was contradicted by CalFire – even though we wrote about the discrepancy in October 2009,  and FEMA did so in more detail in its letter.

FELLING TREES – CREATING A FIRE RISK?

We’ve been concerned that “thinning” the trees will actually create a fire hazard where there is little now. Evidently, we were not the only ones. FEMA asks UCSF to show that a drier forest and changes in wind patterns “would not result in an increase in the wildfire hazard in Sutro Forest.”

GOOD FAITH?

It’s been pointed out to UCSF that maintaining a claim that there’s a very severe fire hazard, in the face of expert evidence to the contrary, is not only misguided , but could adversely impact neighbors: It’s frightening; it could cause insurance concerns; and it could become a disclosure issue if property sales are planned.

UCSF continues to claim the fire risk is high, despite clear evidence that this is mistaken, and that these claims – even if  in error – can impact the neighbors. It continues with its plans for thinning the forest despite the potential increase in the fire hazard.

It is this sort of thing that calls into question whether UCSF is actually acting in good faith.

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