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Wildfire Sensitive Areas

Sec. (County code number). Statement of intent.

Wildfire sensitive area requirements by this division are intended to protect the life, safety and general welfare of the citizenry and public safety officials and property and property values from the devastating effects of wildfires in the wildland/urban interface.

Sec. (County code number). Definitions.

Defensible Space is the area between improved property and a potential wildfire where fuels have been removed or modified to protect life and property from wildfire, to reduce the potential for fire from improved property spreading to wildland fuels, and to provide a safe working area for fire fighters protecting life and improved property.

Fuels are all combustible materials within the wildland/urban interface including trees, shrubs, plants, grass, rotting wood, leaves, and structures.

Fuel Load is the volume of fuel in any given area, generally expressed as tons per acre.

Fuel Modification is any manipulation or removal of fuels to reduce the likelihood of ignition or the resistance to fire control.

Ladder Fuels are fuels that provide vertical continuity allowing fire to carry from surface into the crowns of trees or shrubs with relative ease.

At Risk Wildfire Sensitive Areas are areas that have been identified by the Virginia Department of Forestry as moderate to high risk on their most recent wildfire risk analysis which may include any area one acre or larger in size that has highly flammable species such as cedar or pines, where 80% or more of all the dominant trees, at crown level, are made up of such conifer species. This includes pine stands and plantations. This may also include stands of predominately deciduous tree species where the impacts of terrain, slope and aspect combine for a substantial wildfire threat.

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Wildland/Urban Interface is the area where structures and other human development meets or intermingles with wildland fuels.

Sec. (County code number). Applicability.

Any new subdivision or new construction in areas of the county defined by this division as wildfire sensitive areas shall comply with the requirements of this division. No provision of this section shall apply to timber stands or pine plantations that are managed for timber production, wildlife, hydrology, and/or recreation.

Sec. (County code number). Wildfire sensitive areas plan requirements.

In addition to the requirements of (County code number system)-(chapter that gives plat requirements) of this chapter, any new subdivision or new construction in wildfire sensitive areas shall include with the preliminary plat, a Wildfire Sensitive Area Plan consisting of a map legibly drawn at a scale of 100 feet to the inch on sheets that are in a size consistent with the preliminary plat detailing:

  1. The defensible space around any proposed building site,
  2. Areas to be cleared of non-fire resistive vegetation adjacent to proposed roads and driveways, and
  3. Areas to be cleared of non-fire resistive vegetation adjacent to overhead power lines.

Each individual lot purchaser shall be notified of the requirements of this section and the need to notify the Planning Department of amendments to the Wildfire sensitive area plan in the event that the location of any proposed structure or driveway is changed due to construction requirements.

Sec. (County code number). Defensible space.

Provisions of this section are intended to modify the fuel load so that the overall intensity of any wildfire is reduced through fuels control in areas adjacent to structures and improvements and to create a defensible space to provide a safe working area for fire fighters to protect life and improved property.

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  1. The defensible space area extends seventy (70) feet in all directions around any residential dwelling, or to property line, whichever is less.
  2. Minimum Vegetative Clearance Requirements in defensible space:
    1. No vegetation or woody growth is allowed within five (5) feet of any structure. Firewise ornamental vegetative fuels or cultivated ground cover, such as green grass, ivy, succulents or similar plants used as ground cover, are allowed provided they do not form a means of readily transmitting fire to any structure.
    2. Tree crowns extending to within ten (10) feet of any structure shall be pruned to maintain a minimum horizontal distance of at least ten (10) feet.
    3. Trees shall be pruned to remove limbs located less than six (6) feet above the ground surface.
    4. Trees are allowed within the defensible space provided that there is space between the crowns that will preclude fire from traveling crown to crown. Horizontal distance between crowns of adjacent trees should be more than ten (10) feet.
  3. Fuel Modification:
    1. Any pine or cedar trees within twenty (20) feet of any residential dwelling shall be removed.
    2. All dead trees within the defensible space shall be removed.
    3. Vegetation and woody growth under trees shall be removed, or cut to a height that will preclude its functioning as a "ladder" for fire to travel from ground vegetation into the tree crown.
  4. Liquefied Petroleum Gas Installations:
    1. Above ground LP-gas containers shall be located within the defensible space.
    2. No above ground propane tanks shall be installed or stored within five (5) feet of a structure.
    3. No vegetation or woody growth is allowed within five (5) feet. Ornamental vegetative fuels or cultivated ground cover, such as green grass, ivy, succulents or similar plants used as ground cover, are allowed provided they do not form a means of readily transmitting fire to gas containers.
  5. Roads:
    1. Roads will be cleared of non fire-resistive vegetation growth not less than twenty (20) feet from each road edge that lies in a wildfire sensitive area.
    2. All pine or cedar trees, dead trees, and dead woody material shall be removed from this area.
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  7. Driveways/Private Lanes:
    1. Driveways and private lanes will be cleared of non fire-resistive vegetation growth not less than 10' from each road edge.
    2. All pine or cedar trees, dead trees, and dead woody material shall be removed from this area, except that;
    3. Single specimens of trees (not pine or cedar), ornamental vegetative fuels or cultivated ground cover, such as green grass, ivy, succulents or similar plants used as ground cover need not be removed, provided they do not form a means of readily transmitting fire.
  8. Overhead Power lines:
    1. Overhead power lines will be cleared of non fire-resistive vegetation growth not less than 15' from each side of the outside edge of the power line that lies in a wildfire sensitive area.
    2. All pine or cedar trees, dead trees, and dead woody material shall be removed from this area.

Sec. (County code number system). Maintenance of defensible space.

Defensible spaces required by Section (County code number system)-(referring to Defensible Space Section above) shall be maintained in accordance with this section. Persons owning, leasing, controlling, operating or maintaining buildings or structures are responsible for maintenance of defensible spaces. Maintenance of defensible space shall include modifying or removing non fire-resistive vegetation and other dead vegetative material. In subdivisions, provisions for the maintenance of defensive space shall be included in the covenants, conditions and restrictions of the property.

  1. Non fire-resistive vegetation or growth shall be kept clear of buildings or structures or improvements in accordance with Section (County code number system)-(referring to Defensible Space Section above) in such a manner as to provide a clear area for fire suppression operations and to modify the fuel load so that the overall intensity of any wildfire is reduced through fuels control. No firewood or other combustible materials may be stored within 5 feet of a structure.
  2. Ladder fuels under trees within defined defensible space shall be maintained at a height that will preclude their functioning as a "ladder" for fire to travel from ground vegetation into the tree crown.
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  4. Tree crowns extending to within 10 feet of any structure shall be pruned to maintain a minimum horizontal clearance of 10 feet. Portions of tree crowns, which extend within ten (10) feet of outlet of a chimney, shall be pruned to maintain a minimum horizontal clearance of ten (10) feet. Deadwood and litter shall be regularly removed from trees. Dead trees shall be felled and removed.

Sec. (County code number system). Treatment to wildfire sensitive areas, fuel modification.

Not withstanding the requirements in Section (County code number system)-(referring to Defensible Space Section above), fuels should be modified in the entire area where any new construction or new subdivision is going to be developed in a pine stand or pine plantation or wildfire sensitive area.

  1. Woody debris from the thinning operation should be removed from the area or disposed of on site. All dead trees should be felled and if possible removed.
  2. Note: If the pine stand is predominantly mature Virginia pine, it should not be thinned. The hazard of windthrow is high for thinned Virginia pine due to its shallow rooting system. Consult with the Virginia Department of Forestry for the best treatment to reduce wildfire hazard in this area.

Cross reference(s) -- Fire Protection, Sec. (County code number system); Fire Prevention and Protection, Sec. (County code number system).

Sec. (County code number). Fire protection.

  1. The installation of adequate fire hydrants in a subdivision at locations approved by the agent shall be required, provided necessary public water is available. The agent shall consult with the proper authority before approving such location.
  2. Where public water is not available, in consultation with the Emergency Services Coordinator, the developer shall be required to provide for the installation of a dry hydrant at a satisfactory water source within three miles of the proposed subdivision, if an existing dry hydrant is not available.
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Private lanes and driveways, dry hydrants.

Sec. (County code number). Streets and alleys.

(11) Private lanes and driveways.

  • Private lanes and driveways shall provide a minimum unobstructed width of twelve (12) feet and, where practical, a minimum unobstructed clearance of thirteen feet six inches (13' 6").
  • Any private lane or driveway in excess of three hundred (300) feet in length shall be provided with turnarounds. Turnarounds shall be an all-weather road surface and shall have inside turning radii of not less than forty (40) feet, or as an alternative, a "hammerhead-T" turnaround (a "T"-shaped, three-point turnaround) that is no narrower than the road it serves. The top of the "T" shall be a minimum of forty (40) feet long.
  • Private lanes that connect with a road or roads at more than one point may be considered as having a turnaround if all changes of direction meet the radii or hammerhead-T requirements for turnarounds. The zoning administrator may permit modification of the turnaround requirements to an alternative that substantially accomplishes the intent of this division, to allow a public safety vehicle(s) to safely ingress and egress during a fire or public safety emergency.
  • Private lanes and driveways in excess of two hundred (200) feet in length and less than VDOT subdivision street standards in width shall be provided with turnouts in addition to turnarounds. Turnouts shall be spaced so that drivers can see from one turnout to the next where practical and will be installed at least every four hundred (400) feet, or at the midpoint if the private lane or driveway is between two hundred (200) and eight hundred (800) feet in length. Turnouts shall be an all weather road surface at least 10 feet wide and 30 feet long.
  • All gates shall not open outward. Gate openings shall provide a clear opening of not less than two (2) feet wider than the traveled way.
  • Bridges shall be built to at least the width of the road and shall be capable of supporting at least twenty thousand (20,000) pounds per axle.
  • All plats describing lots served by private lanes and roads serving family divisions shall include language found in section (County code number).

Last modified: Tuesday, 25-Nov-2014 12:17:07 EST