On Tuesday, September 28, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors passed two resolutions accepting grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). The two programs will provide critical defensible space assistance to Nevada County residents with disabilities, older adults, and property owners who meet specific low-income thresholds. 

The County of Nevada applied for funding for both the Access and Functional Needs Program and the Nevada County Abatement Program in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The two programs will offer defensible space treatment assistance through a cost-share program; the grants will cover 75% of defensible space treatment, with the homeowners covering the remaining 25% of treatment costs. These two programs will be divided into two phases. In phase I, Defensible space treatment will take place on 123 properties that have undergone programmatic review and received approval from FEMA for Environmental and Historical Preservation (EHP). Additionally, Phase I will include community outreach and engagement to identify approximately 775 additional eligible property owners and conduct property pre-inspections for defensible space treatment in Phase II. 

“We are thrilled to see federal grant dollars flow to Nevada County to help residents implement defensible space. We know that securing resources for low-income, older adults, and folks living with disabilities is an urgent community need. We are glad to see substantial funding allocated to this important work,” says Paul Cummings, Office of Emergency Services Program Manager.
Federal funding for the two programs totals $1,014,440 in Phase I and $4,023,738 in Phase II. Phase II FEMA approval is contingent on programmatic review and Environmental and Historical Preservation (EHP) approval of eligible properties, which may only commence after a complete list is shared with FEMA. Provided no delays are encountered, Phase I for the Access and Functional Needs Program is expected to conclude in July of 2022 and the Nevada County Abatement Program in September of 2022. 

Nevada County is located in a wildfire-prone area and therefore requires residents to take additional measures to increase safety. Defensible Space slows the spread of wildfire and creates a buffer zone to help firefighters and first responders safely defend homes. Developing defensible space is one crucial factor in increasing a home’s resiliency to fire, but it is not the only factor. Defensible space, coupled with home-hardening, helps communities and properties prepare for wildfire. Therefore the County of Nevada is also applying for grant funds to help residents retrofit their homes to harden them to the vulnerabilities of ember intrusion, radiant heat, and direct flame exposure.

“We need to grab every tool we have available to us when it comes to preparing our community for wildfire. These two programs, and the grant dollars from FEMA, are crucial pieces to how we slow the spread of wildfire by giving private property owners the help they need to create defensible space,” says the Chair of the County of Nevada Board of the Supervisors, Dan Miller.  
Before the defensible space assistance grant may commence, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve a project management contract that is currently in the works. County staff anticipates bringing a contract to the Board of Supervisors by December 2021. The Office of Emergency Services will share project updates as they become available. Residents are encouraged to stay informed about the project by registering for updates here: Defensible Space Assistance – Hazard Mitigation Grant Program – Project Update Interest Form.