Living with Fire in the WUI: Questions & Answers

May 2, 2019 – On March 6th, Nevada County residents were invited to the Nevada Theatre to watch “Fire and Forest Health: Your Tahoe National Forest“ alongside “Wilder than Wild: Fire, Forest and the Future.” After the films, the community was invited to join in a conversation around the new reality of living with fire in the wildland urban interface. Below are questions asked and not answered on the evening of March 6 due to time constraints.

Panelists included: CAL FIRE NEU Unit Chief, Brian Estes; Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, Board Chairman Donn Thane; Nevada County Office of Emergency Services, Steve Monaghan; Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Captain Jeff Pettitt; Nevada County Consolidated Chief Jim Turner; Grass Valley/Nevada City Captain Sam Goodspeed; Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Local Customer Experience Senior Manager James Monninger; Tahoe National Forest, Fire Management Officer Shelly Allen; and University of California Cooperative Extension Forestry/Fire Science and Natural Resource Advisor, Dr. Kate Wilkin. The panel discussion was moderated by YubaNet’s editor, Pascale Fusshoeller. Many thanks to the panelists who took the time to answer the additional questions and to Nevada County’s OES staff for compiling the data.

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Defensible Space & Enforcement

Q: What is defensible space landscaping?
A: Homes need many defenses for wildfire. Protect homes from embers (6+ hours) and the fire front (direct flame contact and radiant heat for 20 minutes). Therefore, a coupled strategy of a fire-resistant structure and defensible space are necessary. The key to both is design, materials, and maintenance. Maintenance is the most overlooked part of fire-resistant structures. California’s Public Resource Code 4291 was created in 2010 to regulate defensible space in State Responsibility Areas. Since then, much research has occurred, and recommendations have not been integrated into California’s policy yet. Follow recommendations from FireWise USA and the National Fire Protection Association: 0-5 ft no fuel near structure; 5-30 ft lean, clean, and green; 30-100 ft reduced fuel. Additional information here.

Q: Should we mandate defensible space standards for those living in the WUI? Should insurance companies mandate?
A: State and local codes (PRC 4291 and County’s Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance) currently mandate defensible space for all structures and new buildings are required to be fire resistant. Older buildings are only legally required to have fire resistant retrofits when renovations require permits. Some people debate if these regulations impinge on private property rights. Others note that in areas with homes built close together (<100 ft from home to property line), that a neighbor’s overgrown vegetation impinges upon their property right to reduce their fire risk.

Q: The NFPA says ignition vulnerability is the #1 reason homes are destroyed. This was not discussed in the videos. Why?
A: California has many fire problems. The videos focused on forest fire problems and not those associated with homes. Homes need many defenses for wildfire. They need to be protected from embers, 6+ hours, and the fire front, direct flame contact and radiant heat for 20 minutes. Therefore, a coupled strategy of a fire-resistant structure and defensible space is necessary. The key to both is design, materials, and maintenance. Maintenance is the most overlooked part of fire-resistant structures.
In creating “defensible land” what is the environmental impact in removing leaves and pine needles from forests rather than letting them burn and the ash returns nutrients to the soil.
Leaves and pine needles do not need to be removed from the forests. Leaves and pine needles should be removed from the first 10 feet adjacent to a structure. Beyond the first 10 feet, pine needles and leaves should be reduced, but not totally removed. Pine needles and leaves help stabilize soil and reduce erosion. Within the first 5 feet of a structure, and 10 feet of a roadway, it is best to create a no-fuel zone.

Q: Manzanita – We have a lot of old growth manzanita. Yes, burns “so hot” but native important plant. Speak to how we can manage our manzanita.
A: Wildland fires were frequent throughout our region from lightning strikes and indigenous peoples. The oak woodlands likely burned every 20-30 years and mixed conifer forests every 5-20 years. Some areas may not have had fire as frequently due to happenstance, and there may have been some older manzanita. However, most manzanita would not have had an “old growth architecture”, rather after fire some species may sprout at the base and others would seed.

Manzanita is an important native plant and it attracts many pollinators. Manzanita is an important part of the landscape and historically occurred in smaller patches (1 to 10 to 100 acres) on hotter, drier areas. Today, manzanita is often in larger patches due to timber removal and mining. Maintaining a patchwork of manzanita at the landscape scale is quite important for biodiversity.

Manzanita burns quite hot due to the density of the wood and oils. It also keeps its old, dead wood at the base and pine needles get draped over its branches therefore it catches fire very easily. Therefore, manzanita should not be close to homes and evacuation routes because it burns quite hot.

Q: If you have small native trees evergreens growing in your firesafe zone, do you need to water them during the dry season? Within 30′, 100′, how often?
A: Irrigated vegetation is less likely to burn during some fires, but not all. Water and electricity fail during fires and plants can dry quite quickly during extreme fire weather. Native evergreens do not respond well to watering. Therefore, follow spacing and maintenance recommendations from FireWise USA and the National Fire Protection Association at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire

Q: How do we enforce removal of overgrown fuel sources on large private lands?
A: There are no codes requiring comprehensive vegetation removal on large parcels. California’s codes focus on defensible space and evacuation routes. In addition, Grass Valley and Nevada City focus on clearing small parcels and the property boundaries of large parcels.

Q: The neighboring vacant lot (3 acres) is densely wooded and unmaintained providing significant risk to our house and property. What is the proper process to get the owner to take required action?
A: State law, Public Resource Code 4291, requires 100 feet of defensible space to be maintained up to the property line. The local County Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance requires property owners to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around a habitable structure notwithstanding property lines. If you are having difficulty achieving 100 feet of defensible space around your home, you may request a defensible space inspection.

Q: Why always about agencies instead of what people can do to save their homes.
A: We work with agencies, private industry and subject matter experts because their daily work involves public education, enforcement and wildfire prevention. It is our hope that by coordinating with a diverse range of stakeholders we are able to relay the most up to date wildfire prevention efforts and encourage individuals to get involved in their personal responsibility to prevent and prepare for wildfire.

Home Hardening

Q: Would you please share with us ember/firebrand penetration into structures during wildfires.
A: Structures must withstand all aspects of a fire including:
1. A pre-fire ember storm (30 minutes) as the fire approaches the structure,
2. The flame front with direct flames and radiant heat (10-20 minutes) as the fire passes by the structure, and 3) lastly another ember storm (2-6 hours) as nearby materials continue to burn. Embers have fluid dynamics; they hit a building and roll down it and away until the reach a rough surface. View this video to watch home embers attack a structure in the lab.

Q: How can I protect my large windows from wildfire?
A: Windows break from radiant heat from fuel (deck, wooden fence, trees, shrubs, mulch, and such) burning near them. The National Fire Protection Association and FireWise USA recommend double-pane and tempered glass windows to withstand radiant heat. Follow defensible space guidelines to reduce radiant heat near your home. To increase their ability to withstand radiant heat, remove vegetation in front of windows and nearby. Follow recommendations from The National Fire Protection Association and FireWise USA.

Q: What is your input concerning onsite fire suppression systems i.e. gas fired pump, 100 ft of hose and a reservoir?
A:

  1. Recommendations from the National Fire Protection Agency and FireWise USA are for structures to have passive wildfire defenses, meaning a structure is resistant to embers and a flame front surrounded by defensible space. Most homes burn from embers that intrude into attic space or ignite fuel within 5 ft. of a structure.
  2. New buildings in State Responsibility Areas are required to have a tank.
  3. During a Wildfire event many sprinkler systems fail to protect a home. Exterior sprinkler systems may or may not be helpful to protect your home. If used, pumps should be gravity fed because pumps fail. Electricity fails during wildfires and generators often fail due to radiant heat and needing someone to attend to them. During high wind events, sprinklers’ mist is easily blown away. If there is a lot of radiant heat on a building, e.g. nearby home burning or large trees, then the water evaporates quickly. Additional information here.

Evacuations

Q: Are there plans for evacuation routes for Nevada County? If so, what are they?
A: Approved Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Guides have been created for County of Nevada communities and may be found here. A general Emergency Preparedness Guide & Evacuation Plan may be printed and posted on your refrigerator to save for future use.

Q: How do we plan the best escape route? How can we help our in-town area?
A: The best rule of thumb is to have at least 2 ways of egress. Every member of your family should know all possible ways to get out of your neighborhood in case one or more egress routes are blocked. The best way to learn routes out of your neighborhood is to take a day and drive around. Do not count solely on mapping software as they often do not show gates and other road hazards.

Q: How will Hwy 49 will be able to accommodate thousands of cars as they evacuate?
A: The capacity of HWY 49 to accommodate thousands of vehicles as they evacuate is limited. Residents should consider this when determining which vehicles to take in the event of an evacuation and when to leave. It is imperative that evacuation warnings and orders are heeded. Always leave early. Carpooling is encouraged. Please consider that when evacuating, taking large trailers, recreational vehicles, and multiple vehicles has the potential to unnecessarily clog roadways. When evacuating with your family, we recommend you evacuate in one vehicle, rather than placing multiple cars on the road. The Nevada County Board of Supervisors sent Governor Newsom a letter on February 27, 2019 requesting immediate assistance with completing hazardous vegetation removal along State Highways 49, 20, 174, 89 and 267. The Board also requested the Governor provide resources to widen these narrow, primary ingress/egress routes.

Q: What is our county doing to make our roads safer? What is the county doing to remove fuel from evacuation routes?
A: The California Fire Safe Council and Nevada County Public Works Department received a $200,000 grant this winter to complete roadside vegetation work on portions of Tyler Foote, North Bloomfield and McCourtney Roads. Implementation is in-progress and the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County is applying for additional funding to further this project. In June of 2018, the County of Nevada applied for a FEMA Hazardous Mitigation Program which includes $6.5 million in funding to complete the County of Nevada Community Fire Mitigation Project. If funded, the project will include a roadside vegetation management program where 317.5 miles of roadway located in high circulation and evacuation areas will have hazardous vegetation removed, provide 2,400 acres of chipping services and add 12 community green waste drop vegetation collection sites in Nevada County, and clear hazardous vegetation at 144 homes for people with access and functional needs. The Nevada County’s Community Fire Mitigation Project is a partnership with the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, the Town of Truckee, and the Truckee Fire Protection District. In December of 2019, the County of Nevada also applied for two CAL FIRE grant applications that will provide hazardous vegetation removal along both County and private roadways. The first application was submitted by the Nevada County Public Works Department to remove hazardous fuels along both sides of 200 miles of County-maintained roadway focusing on emergency egress/ingress routes. The second application was submitted by the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services and is a pilot project to provide landowner assistance for hazardous fuel management along private roads. Award announcements from FEMA have been delayed; award announcements were initially scheduled for October 2018. CAL FIRE award announcements will be made in April 2019.

Q: God forbid we find ourselves trapped in our homes or we’re somewhere in the neighborhood and can’t get out. What is the best thing to do? We live close to a park in Nevada City which has Little Deer Creek Running past it and it goes through a culvert. Would a culvert be a good place to hide?
A:

  1. In some countries, like Australia, residents evacuate high fire risk areas on red flag days before an ignition occurs. This is the safest strategy for your family. It takes a lot of mental and physical fitness to survive an entrapment. Evacuation and avoiding fire weather is always preferred.
  2. If you are trapped in an area during a fire, your largest concern should be protecting your lungs from the fire’s radiant heat. You need to seek shelter in an area that protects you from radiant heat, like a large open space or a structure. Fire fighters use even larger safety zones that are at least 4 X projected flame height. Research shows people need larger areas in steep terrain during winds to keep people safe. New recommended areas may be as large as 8 X projected flame height, and X 10 for slope and wind. Learn more about Safety Zones at The National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Q: Are there designated safe spots in case roads are clogged by vehicles evacuating? Can we use existing golf courses, school campuses and carve out more designated safe spots?
A:

  1. In some countries, like Australia, residents evacuate high fire risk areas on red flag days before an ignition occurs. This is the safest strategy for your family. It takes a lot of mental and physical fitness to survive an entrapment or shelter-in-place during a wildfire and it is not recommended because it is often deadly. Evacuation and avoiding fire weather is always preferred.
  2. If you are trapped in an area during a fire, your largest concern should be protecting your lungs from the fire’s radiant heat. You need to seek shelter in an area that protects you from radiant heat, like a large open space or a structure. Fire fighters use even larger safety zones that are at least 4 X projected flame height. Research shows people need larger areas in steep terrain during winds to keep people safe. New recommended areas may be as large as 8 X projected flame height, and X 10 for slope and wind. Learn more about Safety Zones at The National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Personal Responsibility & Organizing at the Community Level

Q: So far there has been minimal call to action. To succeed at this, all of us must act. What about this?
A: Personal responsibility and working with your community are key to fire preparations. People need to:

  1. Create and maintain fire resistant homes
  2. Maintain defensible space for structures and evacuation routes
  3. Create evacuation plans and practice
  4. Work with community to create fuel breaks and landscape-wide fuels treatments
  5. Lobby for FireWise legislation that acts as both a carrot and stick to make our communities safer.

Q: How can a small property owner in the WUI encourage effective fuel reduction at the neighborhood level, beyond one’s own property?
A: Make sure your property meets State and County codes for defensible space, and potentially National Fire Protection Association or FireWise USA recommendations. Make your home resistant to fire following recommendations National Fire Protection Association or FireWise USA. Share how you achieved defensible space and fire-resistant home successes. Listen to neighbors’ concerns, regarding both fire and otherwise. California Public Resource Code 4291 and Nevada County Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance: Property owners can also work with their Firewise Community and have work party projects in their community. If you are not in a Firewise Community, become one and develop plans and projects to be implemented by your community.

Q: What can we do about owners/landlords who live out of the area and do not see their overgrown properties for years and who do nothing to clear property of brush, etc.?
A: If you know the property owners, alert them that the property does not meet current code requirements through a friendly phone call. If you do not know the out of town property owner, you may visit the public kiosk in the lobby of the Assessor’s Office, at 950 Maidu Avenue, Nevada City, to determine the property owner’s name, mailing address and Assessor’s parcel number (APN). You may alert your neighbor that their property is out of compliance with a letter. Click here for a sample letter template.

Q: Other than clearing our own property what can we do and try to volunteer or help?
A: Volunteer to help a neighbor who has specials needs to clear their defensible space, lead your community in a fire adapted coalition, volunteer with the Fire Safe Council, lobby for laws and funds to improve efficacy of defensible space and fire-resistant home retrofits.

Q: Are there existing or expanded efforts to pull scotch broom?
A: The Fire Safe Council helps coordinate occasional Scotch Broom removal projects. Firewise Communities and local organizations are also encouraged to organize work parties as well. If you are not in a Firewise Community, you may become one and develop plans and projects to be implemented by your community. Click here for more information about Scotch Broom Removal. To apply to borrow a weed wrench, please complete and submit this form.

Q: Which activity will have the largest impact on reducing fire risk? – Prescribed burns – “Let Burn” policy – mastication, mechanical treatment – other?
A: Yes, all treatments are needed to tackle California’s wildfire problems. It will be a matter of deciding which treatments are appropriate for the vegetation type, parcel, the owner, and the local community. Other treatments could include prescribed herbivory, lop and scatter by hand, pile burning, broadcast prescribed fire, timber harvest, and herbicide. In grasslands, prescribed fire and prescribed herbivores remove similar types of fuel e.g. grass. In shrublands and forests, fire removes small woody fuel and conifer needles fuels better than most treatments. However, some forests may need pre-fire treatments to make the plants resilient to fire and reduce safety risks.

Burn Piles

Q: Why does Nevada County stop us from burning leaves and pine needles?
A: In Western Nevada County, burn piles cannot be mainly leaves and pine needles because individuals are not allowed to create a smoke nuisance for anyone. Burn piles are permitted within the unincorporated regions of Nevada County, however they are prohibited in the city limits of Grass Valley and Nevada City. A burn permit from the fire department is always required in Truckee. Check with your Home Owners Association if burn piles are permitted in your neighborhood as some homeowner associations have specific rules about burning. Burn season in Nevada County is divided into three segments: “open burning” – no burn permits required, “burn permits required” – in late Spring and late Fall after peak fire season is over and “no burn” season aka peak fire season. CAL FIRE suspends residential burn permits during fire season due to the increased fire danger.

Even during open burning or burn permit-only season, no burn days may be called by the local air district or CAL FIRE.

It is imperative to check the burn day status before lighting your piles. You can check the burn day status online and learn more about residential burning at the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) or via phone: Western Nevada County: (530) 274-7928 and Eastern Nevada County: (530) 582-1027.

No burn days based on smoke dispersion and trapping of pollutants are determined by the air district. Ridges of high pressure create temperature inversions where the air is warmer a few hundred feet or more above the ground than at ground level. This traps smoke and leads to poor or no smoke dispersion.

Opt-in Code Red Emergency Alert Notifications

Q: Re: Code Red “glitch” I heard a large portion of the Paradise population did not receive phone notification to evacuate. Why was that and what has been changed to correct that?
A: Code Red is an opt-in high-speed mass notification system designed to notify residents in the event of an emergency. Residents must register for Code Red alerts to receive them. Register for notifications. This service allows us to deliver emergency or time-sensitive messages to you via SMS/text, email, landline, cell phone, TTY, or a mobile application push. Code Red alerts will display as originating from 866- 419-5000 or 855-969-4636 on your caller ID. If you missed any of the message details, you can also dial the number back to hear the complete message. Please save both these numbers in your phone as “Code Red Emergency Alerts” so you do not mistake this contact for a telemarketing phone call.

Encourage everyone in your household to register and make sure these numbers are excluded from your do not disturb settings by adding them to your favorites group (iOS) or with exceptions (Android.) You don’t want to miss these calls. If you need help signing up with CodeRED, please dial 211 for assistance.

Code Red alerts are one tool in your toolbox and are not a guarantee — Monitor local media, too. Code Red alerts only work when cell phone towers and telephone lines are working too. There is no guarantee you will receive an alert during an emergency if infrastructure is compromised. We recommend having an analog phone that plugs into the wall and may operate when power is down. We also recommend keeping a battery powered radio, and extra batteries, on hand especially on Red Flag warning days.

Prescribed Burns

Q: How could a preventive prescribed burn be accomplished on the 550-acre parcel (Amaral property) between Banner Mountain and Red Dog Road?
A: Options include:
• Prepare properties for fire with NRCS EQIP cost-share program
• Burn property thru Cal Fire Vegetation Management Program
• Work with a private contractor
• Write a grant to fund work with nonprofit contractor
• Work with neighbors to burn small areas with low fuel levels.
• Attend UCCE prescribed fire workshops to learn more.
• Email [email protected] to get onto prescribe fire listserv for workshops and other announcements

Q: Obviously prescribed burns have their own carbon footprint especially given the fuel loads. How are you working with other ways/strategies i.e. biomass, selective harvest, chipping?
A: Prescribed fires often consume fuel that cannot be used by other sources, including but not restricted to leaves, needle litter and twigs. Larger woody materials could be harvested for timber. Smaller woody materials could be used for: biomass energy, compost, mulch, or value-added wood composite products. As of fall 2018, University of California has a new Biomass Specialist, Dr. Dan Sanchez, who works on developing economical products from woody biomass and policies that support these industries. There are grants to help these types of business ventures.

Q: How can I get a prescribed burn on my property ASAP?
A:
1. Hire a prescribed fire contractor for a broadcast prescribed fire. This can be done in less than one months’ time. Regional contractors include Armstrong Fire Safety, Bella Forestry, Firestorm, Prometheus, and Wood’s Fire.
2. Create piles and burn them yourself.
3. Work with neighbors, especially those with professional experience, and plan a burn with your local volunteer fire department. To learn more about these options through emails and workshops, sign up for the regional prescribed fire listserv by emailing [email protected]

Q: Is there a possibility of allowing private land owners to control burn? Any forestry management education resources?
A: UC Cooperative Extension is hosting a series of workshops on prescribed fire. Email [email protected] to be put on the mailing listserv.

PG&E (These questions were submitted to PG&E for direct response.)

Q: PG&E, why not in-ground the utilities instead of continuing vegetation management?
A: PG&E operates and maintains approximately 100,000 miles of overhead lines and approximately 26,000 miles of underground lines across its service area. As part of efforts to make our infrastructure more resilient, we are evaluating areas where undergrounding can best serve our long-term safety and reliability efforts to increase system resiliency. It is important to understand that undergrounding is a complex process which can take years to complete so is not a solution that can further reduce the risk of wildfire in the near-term. In addition, when electric lines are underground, they are not immune to weather and may still be impacted by equipment issues, lightning strikes, flooding, earthquakes, and excavation damage by a third party. Underground lines also can take longer to repair than overhead lines when damage occurs. Given the growing risk of wildfires, PG&E is taking important safety actions now to keep our customers and communities safe. Our ongoing and expanded wildfire safety efforts include a critical hardening of our electric system, further enhancing vegetation management around power lines and conducting accelerated safety inspections of electric infrastructure in high fire-threat areas. More information on PG&E’s wildfire safety efforts can be found at www.pge.com/wildfiresafety.

Q: Has PG&E said the cause of Paradise Fire? What are they doing about redesigning the grid?
A: The cause of the Camp Fire is under investigation and PG&E is fully cooperating with agency investigations. Based on the information currently known to the company and reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other agencies, the company believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire. Given the ever-growing wildfire threat we are seeing across our state, we want to be sure we are continuing to do everything we can to further reduce the risk of wildfire and keep customers and communities safe. As part of our Community Wildfire Safety Program, and as an additional precautionary measure following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires intended to further reduce wildfire threats, we are upgrading and strengthening our electric system across 7,100 miles of distribution line in high fire-threat areas over the next 10 years. This system hardening work includes installing stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines, along with targeted undergrounding, as well as upgrading and replacing other electric equipment and infrastructure to further reduce wildfire risks. We are starting this work in locations that are at the highest risk of wildfire, based on such factors as potential ignition risk associated with equipment, risk of wildfire spreading if one were to occur, and challenges to exiting a community in the event of an evacuation. We anticipate completing 150-line miles of hardening by the end of 2019. We will continue rebuilding efforts in other high fire-risk locations across our service area, including portions of Nevada County, over the next decade. More information on PG&E’s wildfire safety efforts can be found at: www.pge.com/wildfiresafety.

Nevada City

Q: When will Nevada City legalize prescribed burns?
A: Nevada City is not likely to legalize “prescription burns”. However, there has been some interest in rescinding the residential burn ban. This would have to be done by a vote of the City Council. If allowed, Nevada City residents would be able to have burn piles on their properties.

Q: What are the guidelines in Nevada City – city limits – for roadside vegetation? I assume it’s different than Nevada County.
A: Nevada City has just passed a Vegetation Ordinance that requires roadside vegetation to be cut back three feet from the pavement.

Q: Nevada City has approximately 450 acres of “open space” around the city (including Hirschman Pond, the Tribute and Environs trail areas, Sugarloaf, the airport, and a number of smaller parcels). We applaud the City’s recent fuel-reduction efforts but large areas remain overgrown and hazardous. Some of this overgrown land is less than 1/2 mile from downtown Nevada City in Deer Creek canyon, with no road or fire break separating it from the city. How many of Nevada City’s open-space acres have been treated/brush-thinned to create shaded fuel breaks? What is the City’s short- and long-term plan for managing these lands?
A: Nevada City owns about 300 acres:
• Old Nevada City Airport 109
• Hirschmans Pond and Indian Trails 87
• Deer Creek Environs 40
• Sugarloaf Mountain 30
• Pioneer Park 17

The Deer Creek Canyon below Nevada City is a mix of public and private land, of which Nevada City owns approximately 40 acres primarily centered around the Tribute Trails trail system. Quite a bit of work has been done over the last few years. Nevada City has implemented treatment at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and along City owned property adjacent to Old Downieville Hwy.

Nevada City has also partnered with Sierra Streams Institute to treat areas along the Tribute Trail system. In addition, the City of Nevada City has also registered volunteers through the Bear River Yuba Land Trust who have adopted the trail. It is unlikely that the City of Nevada City would ever be able to establish a continuous fuel break within a half mile of Nevada City because it’s mostly private property. The best we could do is improve along Providence Mine Rd and the Tribute Trail and tie it into Old Downieville Hwy. The other option is to work with PG&E and have them clear under the power lines at the bottom end of the canyon. We hope to do both.

Grant Funding

Q: What is the County doing to bring fire prevention and preparedness resources to the community?
A:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Funding

July 2018, the Office of Emergency Services formally applied for two Hazard Mitigation Program grants totaling in a possible $10.2 million of additional funding from CAL OES and FEMA. Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding is available when authorized under a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration. As the result of the 2017 Presidential Disaster Declaration due to Nevada County’s October wildfires, Nevada County was eligible to apply for these funds.

The first HMGP Grant application submitted includes $6.5 million in funding to complete the County of Nevada Community Fire Mitigation Project. The project will include a roadside vegetation management program where 317.5 miles of roadway located in high circulation and evacuation areas will have hazardous vegetation removed, affordable green waste disposal that will treat 2,400 acres of chipping services and add 12 community green waste drop vegetation collection sites in Nevada County, and clearing of hazardous vegetation at 144 homes for people with access and functional needs. If funding is granted, the Nevada County’s Community Fire Mitigation Project would be in partnership with the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, the Town of Truckee, and the Truckee Fire Protection District.

The second HMGP Grant application submitted includes $3.7 million to complete the County of Nevada Abatement Program. Abatement Program goals focus on the removal of nuisances such as weeds, hazardous vegetation, and debris that might catch fire endangering others. The Abatement Program will focus on fire hazard abatement inspections, fire hazard abatement, and public education presentations. Inspections will focus on meeting guidelines set by California Public Resource Code 4291 and the County of Nevada Abatement Ordinance 2411 guidelines. The Abatement Program will lessen the community’s financial burden by supplementing costs of fire hazard abatement. Community education will focus on defensible space standards, partnership programs and hazardous vegetation removal. If the grant funding is received, grant funds will be able to provide 10,000 defensible space inspections, 60 sections of hazardous vegetation abatements, and provide 20 public education presentations.

CAL FIRE Funding

December 2019 County of Nevada applied for a total of $5,689,175 in funding to CAL FIRE’s Fire Prevention Grants Program. This figure includes County and partner in-kind match contributions. Awards will be announced April 2019 with projects beginning September 2019. Projects must be completed by March 2022. Nevada County applications include:

Egress/Ingress Fire Safety Project (Public Works)

Remove hazardous fuels along both sides of 200 miles of County-maintained roadway focusing on emergency egress/ingress routes.

Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone (Office of Emergency Services)

Implement a fuel management defense zone west of Grass Valley. This project is ranked as the highest priority fuels reduction project for Western Nevada County in the Community Wildfire Prevention Plan.

Community Wildfire Preparedness Outreach and Education (Office of Emergency Services)

• Implement the Ready, Set, Go! Program. This education campaign teaches individuals how to prepare themselves and their properties against fire threats.
• Coordinate two community-wide Wildfire Prevention and Preparedness Days at Eric Rood Administration Center.
• Organize quarterly Community Wildfire Prevention Stakeholder meetings. Collaborate and strategize with community partners to leverage state and federal funding for greatest impact in Nevada County.

Zone Focused Evacuation Planning (Office of Emergency Services)
Develop zone-focused evacuation and shelter-in-place plan based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Planning Considerations: Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place guide.

Community Wildfire Prevention Plan Update (Office of Emergency Services)
Update Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), to enable Nevada County to prepare for wildfires through the next decade.

Q: How may local forestry contractors connect with grant funding?
A: There are several ways to connect with grant funding in Nevada County. Forestry contractors may submit contact information to the Fire Safe Council, who maintains a forestry contractor contact list. The Fire Safe Council and the County of Nevada periodically receive grant funding for projects. To receive future Bid Opportunities from Nevada County, please register or update your Vendor Profile on Public Purchase. Registration is FREE.

Q: What can we do/what can be done to increase funding for controlled burns and pre-fire management? County and state?
A: Instead of asking, “How we can get more money?” We need to ask, “How can we use our funds more efficiently?” Some prescribed fires do not need large amounts of suppression equipment or to be fully staffed by trained professionals. A hybrid model of a collaborative prescribed fire team could be utilized. Volunteer fire departments, property owners and their family, and neighbors can also accomplish a lot with very little money. Other prescribed fires are very technical and need more trained staff and resources. We should focus on developing prescribed fire capacity for all groups listed above. To learn more, attend a UC Cooperative Extension workshop on prescribed fire for private lands. Email [email protected] to be emailed about upcoming workshops.

Paradise

Q: I’ve heard concerns of “Paradise-scale fire” aren’t applicable here. Speak more to why not?
A: Paradise scale fire is possible in Nevada County. We have similar topography with east/west drainages, slope and aspect conditions. Similar fuel types and weather conditions also contribute to creating a similar situation as Paradise, especially in a wind driven event.

Q: Is a replanting effort planned for the Butte County Fire?
A: Yes. The Butte Fire Safe Council and Butte Resources Conservation District are leading multi-million dollar grant requests.