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With the tapering off of winter, the spring rains have brought plenty of moisture to the hillsides, thus presenting associations with the task of taming the fuel modification zones prior to the summer fires. In many developments that are built on hillsides and adjacent to native brush areas, the developer was required by the county or city to provide a brush management plan for the maintenance of the native plant material that germinates each year. Depending upon what county one is working in these areas are referred to as “Fuel Modification Zones or Brush Management Zones. In most Landscape Maintenance contracts, the maintenance of these zones in included in the scope work when the Association takes over the Maintenance of the common area from the developer. Typically, in most Fire Districts, June 15th is the deadline date to have all of your fuel modification work completed. The following are some basic facts that one should be aware of when managing the fuel modification zones.

  • Make sure that your landscape has a stamped and signed (by the Fire Authority) Fuel Modification Plan to adhere to when doing the work. This Plan gives the specific requirements for the fuel modification area according to the topography of that project.
  • Check with your Fire Authority and make sure whose guidelines you must adhere to (City or County).
  • Have your landscape contractor set up a meeting with the Fire Inspector (on site) to make sure that they are doing the work according to the Inspector’s requirements and the Fuel Modification Plan.
  • Have the fuel modification zones marked using 2” PVC pipe as stakes (defining the different zones: A, B, C and D). (Refer to Figure 1 and 2 noting the different zones).
  • When bidding out new projects for landscape maintenance, make sure that you request from the developer, a signed and stamped Fuel Modification Plan. During the turnover process from the developer make sure that prior to accepting these fuel modifications areas that the Fire Authority has inspected these areas (on site) and that they are content with the work that has been performed by the developer. Also in new associations, have your landscape contractor field verify the Department of Real Estate square footage that was budgeted for the homeowners association. Make sure to differentiate between the irrigated and non-irrigated zones. There is considerable more work involved with an irrigated fuel modification zone than a non-irrigated zone.
  • In existing associations, when the project is bid out, make sure that the areas of fuel modification are spelled out on a site plan with the different zones noted. Include the Fuel Modification Guidelines set forth by the Fire Authority (current guidelines). Depending on the project, not all fuel modification work is performed in the same manner.

Proper maintenance of fuel modification areas are essential to protecting an association from liability, not to mention protecting against loss of homes or lives. Ensure a stamped set of Fuel Modification Plans is incorporated in the landscape maintenance contract. New associations should understand the requirements set forth by the developer in order to direct your landscape contractor as required.