Following a series of fires that have broken out in the hillsides over the last year, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday that increases requirements for brush clearance and fire safety in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones, including a ban on metal weed whackers.
The ordinance was called for by Councilmen Paul Koretz and David Ryu, who both represent districts with hilly neighborhoods.
“Over the past year we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of fires in our hillsides and with the negative ramifications of climate change, it will be this way for the foreseeable future. That is why we have taken these long overdue steps to increase safety protocols for brush clearance in the hills of Los Angeles,” said Koretz, whose district includes Encino Hills, Benedict Canyon and Bel Air.
Koretz’s district has been hit by several recent fires, including the Skirball Fire in December of last year that scorched 422 acres and damaged 12 homes, and the Portola Fire in June, which burned 30 acres. The Skirball Fire is believed to have been caused by someone cooking at a homeless camp, while the Portola Fire is believed to have been caused by a weed whacker.
“I also want to thank Los Angeles Fire Department for partnering with us to create safer conditions for our hillside residents,” Koretz said. “We were very lucky that the Portola Fire was contained relatively quickly thanks to the swift action of the LAFD, but if the brush clearance crew had used other brush cutting tools and had at the very least been carrying fire extinguishers, we could’ve saved a lot of money and worry.”
The ordinance, which needs to be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to become active, also says that brush clearance in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones cannot be conducted during red flag days, and that proper extinguishing agents be nearby during brush clearance. It also creates new penalties for violations.
“As our risk of fire continues to rise in Los Angeles, so must our level of caution,” said Ryu, whose district includes Griffith Park and the Hollywood Hills. “All it takes is one spark to start a potentially devastating fire. That’s why I worked so diligently on this reform with Councilmember Koretz, the Los Angeles Fire Department, and our hillside communities, and why I’m thrilled to see it approved today.”
Between June and September of this year, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to three brush fires in Griffith Park, one of which evacuated more than 2,000 people.