Mission Viejo

Fire Zone Controversy Reignites

By Joe Holtzman

Approximately half of Mission Viejo homes are now in the high-risk fire zone. If anyone was in doubt, the Orange County Fire Authority notified those homeowners in May to anticipate property inspections by the OCFA.

How did 12,000 homes get added into the high-risk zone? The Mission Viejo council majority members made this decision on July 2, 2012, and ratified it on Aug. 20, 2012. Most homeowners were unaware, except for the 400 who pleaded with the council not to rezone their homes.

My intention in writing is not to undermine the concern for fire safety. However, here is what I learned; our city had already met fire safety standards that exceed the state fire safety requirements of Government Code Section 51179. The council had no reason to rezone any homes. The biggest fire risk is on government property – city, county and state. Public property is exempt from requirements regarding hazardous brush. Instead of addressing hazards on public property, the council majority added 12,000 Mission Viejo homes into the fire zone.
The OCFA began sending the letters during the same week wildfires broke out in San Diego and Riverside counties. Maybe it was a coincidence, but OCFA used strong wording to imply the inevitability of our homes burning down because we live in Southern California. I find most homeowners are conscientious, but we apparently have no influence in getting the government to address its own overgrown brush.

The council majority members (Ury, Leckness, Reardon and Kelley) ran over the residents to add 12,000 homes into the fire zone. Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht opposed the action, correctly stating it could raise insurance costs and lower property values. Additionally, the State Department of Real Estate requires that sellers must disclose they are in a fire zone. I have seen the document sellers are required to sign stating if their home is or is not in a fire zone.

How has the council majority responded following their erroneous 2012 claim of “no negative impact” on homeowners? They said during the May 19 council meeting that they had not put ANY homes into the fire zone because they changed the name to “Special Fire Protection Area.”

For residents who received OCFA’s letter about being in a high-risk fire zone, hold the letter in your hand as you watch council meetings and listen to the denials!

Joe Holtzman, an Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing/Distribution Executive with McDonnell Douglas and Ford Motor Company, is a 31-year resident of Mission Viejo.

Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Mission Viejo Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at: (949) 441-0499.








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