LA County Fire Dept. to Enforce Defensible Space Clearance with Deadlines and Fines

The County of Los Angeles Fire Department recently mailed the Annual 2023 Brush Clearance Notices to residents in Fire Hazard Severity Zones (FHSZs). There are approximately 60,000 homeowners who will be receiving this notice for the very first time, while others have been part of an annual brush clearance program for many years.

With abundant rain comes abundant growth, and all structures – house, garage, garden shed – need to have a denfensible clearance from overgrowth. 

Over the last two years, the Fire Department integrated a geospatial database into the Defensible Space Inspection Program that is far more accurate than visual identification used in previous years. Using criteria-based mapping, numerous parcels have been identified within the FHSZs that have never been inspected.

California Health & Safety Code, Section 14902, allows recovery of inspection program costs. In 1989, the Los Angeles County Department of Agricultural Commissioner, Weights and Measures, was authorized by the Board of Supervisors to recover their inspection program costs. The Fire Department resisted imposing this fee until 2022.

Working with the Board of Supervisors, the Fire Department agreed to phase in the Brush Inspection fee over a three-year period. In 2022, the fee was $50.00 (to be billed on the 2023 property tax bill); in 2023, the fee will be $100.00 (to be billed on the 2024 property tax bill); and in 2024, the fee will be $151.00 (to be billed on the 2025 property tax bill). These fees will be assessed on all declared hazardous properties whether they are cleared by the property owner or not. The fee is intended to offset the Department’s costs in an effort to keep the Brush Clearance Inspection Program cost neutral.

Brush Clearance inspections are scheduled to begin as follows:

April 1, 2023, in desert communities
May 1, 2023, in inland communities
June 1, 2023, in coastal communities

If hazardous fire conditions exist on a property at the time of inspection, the property owner will be issued an Official Inspection Report which will indicate existing violations and provide specific clearing instructions and a compliance deadline.

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