The BOS at Station 20. Photo: YubaNet

June 14, 2019 – On Tuesday, June 11th, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors along with County staff from the Board Office, County Executive Office, Office of Emergency Services, County Counsel and the Sheriff’s Office toured local CAL FIRE facilities to learn about the resources and current projects associated with CAL FIRE’s wildfire response within Nevada County.

Before the tour and during their regular Board of Supervisors meeting, the Supervisor’s heard an update on County efforts around wildfire outreach and education, community preparedness, planning, prevention, and evacuation efforts from Nevada County’s Office of Emergency Services and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Major accomplishments included increased community awareness through the Ready Nevada County education campaign, a growth in Code Red emergency alert registrations, and an in-progress update of the Mass Evacuation and Sheltering annexes of the Nevada County Emergency Operations Plan.

CAL FIRE NEU Facilities and Resources in Nevada County

Air Attack 230 and the tour group. Photo: YubaNet

Following the update on County efforts around wildfire response, the Supervisors and County staff toured CAL FIRE’S Station 20 in Nevada City, parts of Empire Mine State Park where CAL FIRE has partnered to create defensible space and reduce fuels along fire access roads, as well as the Grass Valley Emergency Command Center and Air Attack Base at the Nevada County Airport.

NEU’s Emergency Command Center (ECC) is in Grass Valley at the Nevada County Airport. The Grass Valley ECC is the second busiest ECC in the state next to the Riverside Unit. The ECC is also the Air Ambulance coordinator for Sierra Sacramento Valley EMS (SSV) for five Northern California counties.

On the Command Floor at the ECC. Photo: YubaNet

The ECC also acts as the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) Region IV contact that watches over 12 operational areas in the northern part of the state. Grass Valley ECC provides dispatch services to nearly 30 agencies throughout Nevada, Yuba, Placer, Plumas and El Dorado counties and processes over 110,000 emergency phone calls and nearly 35,000 incidents each year.

According to CAL FIRE Unit Chief Brian Estes, Station 20 in Nevada City is the central hub of CAL FIRE’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit. The Board and staff heard presentations on CAL FIRE’s Dozer Operations and Fleet Management that manages the unit’s 27 engines, 3 dozers and approximately 260 pieces of equipment.

Outside the Grass Valley ECC. Photo: YubaNet

The group heard presentations from the Prevention Bureau Chief about enforcement of state fire and forest laws, conducting fire investigations, confiscating illegal fireworks and completing the over 2,100 Defensible Space Inspections within Nevada County in 2018, in addition to Nevada County’s 796. The Forest Practice Chief also discussed forest management and timber harvest planning. The Forest Practice Division that handles forest practice regulations and manages grant applications currently has five shovel-ready fuel reduction projects within the unit.

“With so many of our residents living in a rural landscape with heavy vegetation, CAL FIRE serves as a critical first responder for wildfires in our area,” said Nevada County Board Chair and District V Supervisor Richard Anderson. “The Board of Supervisors was very impressed with the CAL FIRE presence in Nevada County and the resources they can deploy quickly to combat fires locally. We thank CAL FIRE NEU Chief Brian Estes and his staff for showing us what they are doing to both prevent and fight wildfire in Nevada County.”

Current CAL FIRE Projects and Partnerships

To make areas of Nevada County more resistant to wildfire, CAL FIRE showed the Board a recent project partnership with California State Parks, the Empire Mine State Historic Park Fuels Reduction Project. The project has already reduced hundreds of acres of dense hazardous vegetation 100 feet from selected roads and trails and 200 feet from selected park borders with CAL FIRE Conservation Crews.

Although not toured on Tuesday, the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone (Ponderosa Project) is another CAL FIRE partnership with Nevada County and the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County. The project will create a shaded fuel break from fire in an area that includes the only animal shelter in Nevada County, Sammie’s Friends, as well as the McCourtney Road Transfer Station. Within a mile of the project boundary are 7 churches, 12 bridges, 6 schools, 3 fire stations, 2 government buildings, and 4 shelters including the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The Ponderosa Project was recently included in CAL FIRE’s 45-day report on protecting vulnerable communities from catastrophic wildfire to Governor Newsom, to which the Governor has committed a $1 million dollars of funding. The County recently received confirmation that this project will be awarded an additional $2.5 million of funding through the California Climate Investments Fire Prevention Grant program as well.

“The tour was a wonderful opportunity for the Board of Supervisors to see behind the operational capacity curtain,” said Office of Emergency Services Director and Sheriff Captain Jeff Pettitt. “We know it was impressive for them to see the breadth of scope that CAL FIRE covers, from direct fire response, law enforcement, vegetation management, and air response. They saw firsthand the strength of the mutual aid partnership system in our community.”

Wildfire as a Top Board Priority

The Board of Supervisors adopted their annual Board Objectives on February 12th, and continues to set wildfire prevention and preparedness as a top priority. Video from Tuesday’s Board meeting and CAL FIRE NEU Tour will be available to be viewed on Nevada County Media’s Government YouTube Channel.

About Ready Nevada County

Ready Nevada County represents the multifaceted stakeholder effort coordinated by the County of Nevada to raise awareness and mobilize the community to prevent and prepare for wildfire. We are working to expand Nevada County’s wildfire readiness through increased planning, strategic partnerships, improved communication, and ongoing public engagement.