Wildfire on the urban interface is a growing concern in the Bay Area, where recent wildfires have claimed lives and destroyed thousands of structures. The following tools and resources present historical wildfire risk and lessons learned for better planning and mitigation in wildfire zones.
Wildfire Risk and Resources
Wildfire is a common hazard in the Bay Area. In the past 60 years the region has experienced over 500 wildfires, including fast-moving and dangerous wildfires like the 2017 North Bay fires, which killed 31 residents and destroyed more than 8,000 structures.
In addition to the threat on public safety and property, wildland fires can:
- Cause damage to linear infrastructure systems that serve the Bay Area, causing outages downstream of the failure;
- Impact the air quality in cities during the duration of the fire;
- Impact water quality in watersheds impacted by a wildland fire;
- Damage natural environments, with lasting impacts to slopes and soils, leading to hillside destabilization, erosion and landslide.
Wildfire risk is increasing in some Bay Area communities due to climate change, because of higher temperatures and longer dry periods over longer fire seasons. Wildfire risk will also be influenced by potential changes in vegetation.
To address wildfire risks, communities across the Bay Area have adopted plans and continue to implement strategies to reduce the exposure of communities, and should an uncontrollable fire occur, reduce the consequences to people, property and the environment.
This historical map marks fires of greater than 50-acres from 1954 to the present. Perimeters of past fires may provide information for assessing future risk and can also be used to craft scenarios as part of a risk assessment planning effort.
This regulatory map characterizes wildfire hazard severity (likelihood that a fire will happen) across the region. Within city limits, only the very highest level of severity is mapped.
The Wildland Urban Interface depicts the area where human-made structures and infrastructure are found in or adjacent to areas prone to wildfire. The dataset is derived by overlapping several data sources, including housing density, fire hazard severity zones (FHSZ) and vegetation cover. Developed by the state, the dataset provides high-level WUI patterns; it is not a replacement for local WUI designations, which may account for more localized conditions.
Communities and jurisdictions can mitigate wildfire risk through planning and policy initiatives, including those offered in: Pre-disaster Recovery Planning Toolkit for Local Governments, Fire Hazard Planning: General Plan Technical Advice Series (Office of Planning & Research) and A Handbook for Fire Planning in the General Plan (California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection).