Fire Prevention

Saratoga is one of the 6 communities in Santa Clara County with zones designated as Very High Fire Hazard Severity by CAL FIRE. This page describes the City’s efforts to plan for and prevent wildfires. 

Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)

The Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area of Saratoga is at the greatest risk for wildfire. The WUI covers roughly half the City, covering the western hillsides of Saratoga. This part of the City is subject to special regulations and requirements due to the fire risk. The City works closely with Santa Clara County Fire Department and the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council to help provide information and resources to property owners in the WUI.

Wildfire Risk Mitigation Policies

Given the potential for wildfire in Saratoga, the City has worked to identify fire-related hazards in the City of Saratoga and measures to mitigate these potential risks.   

The Safety Element helps guide development in the City of Saratoga in a manner that effectively addresses potential hazards, including wildfire, and includes strategies for reducing risks associated with specific hazards.

The CWPP identifies specific wildfire risks in the City of Saratoga and strategies for minimizing those dangers. Since Saratoga is served by two separate fire protection agencies that operate independently of the City, the CWPP calls for a collaborative that includes Santa Clara County Fire, the Saratoga Fire Protection District, other local fire agencies, the City, the County, and other local government organizations, and local non-profit partners… (more)

Wildfire Evacuation Fears in Colorado Springs Halt Housing Development

By Jim Carlton : wsj – excerpt (you need access to the ssj to read the article)

Fast-growing cities in the West need more housing, but residents fear that crowded roads could lead to Paradise, Calif.-style disaster when fires hit

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—A plan to build more housing in this fast-growing city has been put on hold because of another pressing concern: wildfire evacuation routes.

A citizens’ group in this community of about half a million has successfully lobbied the city council to halt development of the 2424 Garden of the Gods apartment project on grounds that it would overload already congested roads in case of wildfire. In 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire tore into the same neighborhood, destroying 346 homes and killing two as people trying to evacuate spent as long as two hours stuck in traffic.

“I just want to make sure I can get out,” said Dana Duggan, a resident who helped start the Westside Watch group earlier this year to push for a greater focus on evacuation scenarios, including computer modeling.

Developers trying to build more housing in fast-growing cities in the West are running into similar opposition. Worries about wildfire evacuation intensified after the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise, Calif., in 2018, killing 85 people—including some found in charred vehicles. An assessment afterward found three roads out of town were blocked, while traffic was backed up for miles on the fourth…

Bill Wysong was among those caught in a traffic bottleneck in 2012 as residents fled a fire in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Evacuation is the critical issue,” said Dr. Louise Comfort, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied the issue. “If people try to get to a freeway, everybody else is trying that same road. This is something that honestly needs to be planned ahead of time.”

Colorado is building more homes in flammable wild land areas at the same time a drought fueled by climate change has greatly elevated the fire danger. The three largest wildfires in Colorado history took place in 2020. “We have to do a better job learning how to grow in a safe way, including fire [escape] corridors,” Gov. Jared Polis said.

Other communities in the West are similarly dealing with how to balance calls for more housing with wildfire concerns.

A California appeals court in August blocked a planned expansion of a resort near Lake Tahoe after agreeing with some environmentalists’ concerns, including that plans underestimated wildfire evacuation needs. An analysis was remanded to a lower court for further review. “We are disappointed in the decision but we will respect the process,” said Dee Byrne, president and chief operating officer of the Palisades Tahoe resort



As Wildfire Threat Rises, At-Risk Communities Eye New Defenses

Half of California’s Vegetation at ‘High Risk’ from Warming Climate, UC Scientist Says

by Lisa Meadows : KQED – excerpt (includes video and map)

SACRAMENTO (KPIX/KOVR) — Devastation plagued California last year as the worst wildfire season on record ravaged the state.

Scott McLean, with Cal Fire, knows the grim statistics all too well…(more)

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