Questions and Answers

Below are the questions we hear most frequently about wildfire safety.
If your question isn’t here, feel free to contact us directly via the Contact Us section of this website.

There are a number of resources available to you including the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Agoura Hills Fire Safe Council, and Firewise USA. In an emergency, you should contact the Fire Department directly. Otherwise however, we at the Agoura Hills Fire Safe Council are glad to be your first point of contact to discuss these issues, provide guidance, and point you to the right resource where appropriate. You can reach us at info@agourahillsfsc.org

In an actual emergency, contact your fire department by dialing 911.

It is not just the homes that back up to open space that are in danger from wildfire. In the recent Woolsey Fire, a number of homes in the interior of communities were damaged or destroyed.The terms “wildfire” and “wildland fire” can be misleading when it comes to the chance that your home could be ignited by a fire that starts outside in brush, grass or woods.

With just the right conditions – a dry, hot, windy day (for instance Santa Ana winds) – and an ignition source – a spark from a vehicle, machinery, or a carelessly tossed cigarette – your home could be in fire’s path faster than you might imagine.

Cal Fire has used the best science available to develop Fire Severity Zones that indicate the degree of Fire Hazard in an area based upon fuel, slope and weather. All of Agoura Hills is in the Very High Fire Severity Zone, the highest designation.

Assuming you are adequately insured, most homeowner policies do typically cover property losses caused by brush, grass or forest fire. However, many policies do not cover home landscaping and plants that could be destroyed in a wildland fire. And no policy can replace personal items such as photographs, artwork and other memorabilia.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends an annual insurance check-up so that you understand what is and is not covered in your homeowner’s insurance policy. You can also create a home inventory to help get your insurance claim settled faster in the event of fire loss.

Typically, individual improvement efforts by homeowners are not reflected in discounts to their policy premiums. Most insurance rates are set using other factors, including community fire protection resources, such as the presence of fire hydrants. In addition, fire protection is only one small piece of the insurance policy, so discounts for fire protection would be fairly small if they were available.

In areas where wildfires have caused damage, you may find that your insurance company is conducting on-site inspections to recommend wildfire safety actions. Companies that incur large losses from wildfire may be less likely to continue to offer insurance in areas that they consider high-risk.

In a press release dated October 17, 2022, Commissioner Lara of the California Department of Insurance (CDI), enforced the nation’s first wildfire safety regulation, directing insurance companies to reward consumers for being Safer from Wildfires. The insurance companies were required to submit new rate filings reflecting these rewards. The new rate filings are currently being reviewed by the CDI. CLICK HERE to read the press release.

CLICK HERE for a list of insurers that are offering discounts for both community efforts such as Firewise, and individual efforts to improve the structure and defensible space around your home.

Most homes that burn during a wildfire are ignited by embers or firebrands landing on the roof, in gutters, on or under decks and porches, or in vents or other openings in the home. Other homes burn from small flames (surface fire) that can touch the house – such as dry grass that can allow a fire to run right up to the siding. In general, substantially clearing or trimming the area closest to the home (Immediate Zone), is most beneficial, along with some of the improvements to the home such as screening vents and clearing gutters of debris. See the Firewise section of this website for a more complete list. The Los Angeles County Fire Department website and the Firewise Communities Program are great places to start and find resources and action steps you can use around your home and out into the landscape.

A wildfire safety tips sheet is available on NFPA’s safety information page. You can also find additional information about how to create defensible space around your home on the Firewise website.

Protection starts with an assessment of your home and yard (defensible space). We recommend a free assessment from the Agoura Hills Fire Safe Council or one of our partners, which can be accessed on our HIZ Assessment page.

The Firewise USA® Program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes to face the risk of wildfire. The program provides resources to help homeowners learn how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together to take action now to prevent losses. Initiated in 2002 with 12 pilot neighborhoods, the national Firewise USA® Recognition Program has grown to nearly 1,000 active member-communities in 40 states, as well as a participation retention rate of 80% over the past decade. The program, aimed at homeowners, provides specific criteria for communities regarding wildfire preparedness, and based on these criteria, offers national recognition for their work.

Firewise communities are those that have taken appropriate measures to become more resistant to wildfire structural damage. An online Firewise Toolkit, including a Firewise tips checklist for homeowners, is available on the Firewise website.

Firewise techniques include minimizing the risk of home ignition by carefully landscaping around residential structures such as thinning trees and brush and choosing fire-resistant plants, selecting ignition-resistant building materials and positioning structures away from slopes.

Communities that have earned the special distinction of being recognized under the Firewise USA™ Program have followed a systematic approach to organizing and implementing a Firewise mitigation plan in their neighborhood.

First, our assessor recommendations are only recommendations. Although we certainly hope you implement them, as of this date you can implement all, some or none of them. Firewise landscaping techniques can actually improve the aesthetic quality of your home by clearing out dry and dead vegetation, and allowing space between trees and plants. More information about landscaping can be found on the “Home and Landscape” page of the Firewise website.

The U.S. Forest Service and Department of Agriculture define Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) as follows:

What is the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)?    

WUI is an area within or adjacent to an “at-risk community” (see below for the definition of an “at-risk community”) that is identified in recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture in a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.


A WUI is any area for which a Community Wildfire Protection Plan is not in effect, but is within ½ mile of the boundary of an “at-risk community.”

A WUI is also any area that is within 1 ½ miles of an “at-risk community” AND has sustained steep slopes that may affect wildfire behavior or have a geographic feature that aids in creating an effective fuel break or is in fuel condition class 3. (An area classified as fuel condition class 3 implies that the current condition of the vegetation within the area would not be sustainable due to the absence of two or more natural fire cycles. In other words, an excess of vegetation and fuels has occurred due to the exclusion of fire which naturally reduces the level of forest fuels.)

An area adjacent to evacuation routes for an “at-risk community” is another example of a WUI.

What is an “At Risk Community”?    

An “at-risk community” is defined as a community within the wildland-urban interface listed in the Federal Register notice, “Wildland Urban Interface Communities within the Vicinity of Federal Lands that are at High Risk from Wildfire.”


A group of homes and other structures with basic infrastructure and services within or adjacent to federal land is defined as an “at-risk community.”

“At-risk communities” are areas where conditions are conducive to a large-scale wildland fire disturbance event, thereby posing a significant threat to human life or property.

Los Angeles County public safety agencies and the Board of Supervisors 3rd District office, along with the City of Agoura Hills, want you to know about the “Know Your Zone” campaign, a collaborative effort that aims to prepare residents and businesses for emergencies or evacuations. 

Using the Zonehaven AWARE platform, first responders and residents will refer to the same set of Zone maps used for planning and conducting evacuations. Beginning with the Santa Monica Mountain region, residents can now see their “Zone” and have access to information about emergency services in their zone, be able to view real-time zone status updates, shelter options, and more. During a large-scale incident that requires evacuations, the Zone map will be updated in real-time, so residents should check it regularly for status information.

Zonehaven AWARE is a mapping tool that is used in combination with public alert and warning systems such as ALERT LA County and local City emergency alerting systems. Residents should sign up for systems in their area to receive evacuation orders when issued by public officials. When evacuation warnings or orders are issued, notices will include Zone designations in addition to major streets and intersections.   

To find their zone, residents enter an address into the interactive map on Zonehaven AWARE at https://community.zonehaven.com/ using the search bar in the upper left. This will open a pop-up window, which includes the zone name and information about the zone and its emergency services. Residents should look up and record the names of all the zones they frequent – such as home, work, school, or homes of loved ones – and keep them in an easily visible place (on the refrigerator or next to the door). Zones will be used in emergency alert notifications, so knowing the name of your zone is an important part of your emergency plan.    

Learn more about public alert and warning systems in LA County here: https://ready.lacounty.gov/emergency-notifications/ 

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