To determine whether a fire fuel management activity complies with Chapter 26, Article 65 (Riparian Corridor Combining Zone) and Chapters 13 (Fire Safety Ordinance ) and 13A (Abatement of Hazardous Vegetation and Combustible Material ), follow the procedure below. It is recommended that work in the riparian corridor should be done with the input from environmental professionals to protect riparian resources while improving fire safety. The property owner is responsible for being in compliance with all environmental laws and regulations.
Step 1. Does the fuel management activity occur in the defensible space (0-100 feet) of a legally established structure or existing building? If yes, proceed to Step 2, if no, contact Permit Sonoma to obtain a zoning or use permit, as applicable.
Step 2. Is the proposed fire vegetation management “in compliance with County fire safe standards”?
“Compliance” with County fire safe standards is interpreted to mean the following:
- The “standards” referred to are those listed in Chapter 13A-4 and are summarized in Appendix A of this Guidance. These standards are applicable to structures and roads associated with improved and unimproved parcels.
- In compliance with the “standards” means one of the following:
- Not exceeding the distances, clearances or heights specified in the ordinance or the activity required (removal of dead/dying vegetation or combustible materials) (see Appendix A), or
- The requirements prescribed in a notice of violation or abatement order issued by an appropriate fire inspection official, or
- The proposed fuel reduction is recommended in writing by an appropriate fire inspection official or Registered Professional Forester.
Step 3. Is the proposed vegetation management the “minimum required for fire safety purposes”?
The “minimum” vegetation management for “fire safety purposes” in the Riparian Corridor is interpreted to mean that it is:
- Vegetation management that is no more than 100 feet from the perimeter of the structure or ten feet from the edge of the drivable road surface and
- The amount and type of vegetation management is able to accomplish both of the following:
- Achieve the fire safety purpose for needing to manage the vegetation; and
- Achieve the goal of the Riparian Corridor ordinance to protect the ecological integrity and functions of riparian corridors from the negative effects of vegetation removal and development, using the guidelines and recommendations in Appendix B – Best Management Practices for Implementation of Fuel Reduction within the Riparian Corridor.
It is recommended that property owners and land managers review the following recommendations with a qualified professional and develop a vegetation management plan that both reduces fire hazard and improves fire safety, while protecting the riparian corridor and its associated stream. The property owner is responsible for conducting vegetation management activities in compliance with any prohibitions, permits, approvals, and/or authorizations required by applicable resource agencies, including, but not limited to, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Coastal Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Fuel reduction within the riparian corridor should be practiced to the extent feasible and practicable to achieve the goals of 13A and meet the standards of the Riparian Corridor Ordinance. Landowners with questions or concerns implementing the above described process should contact Permit Sonoma Natural Resources staff.