Fire risk in Grass Valley has increased substantially in recent years. While there are several reasons for this, an important question is what measures we might take as a community to reduce that risk. One such measure is the large number of Firewise Communities that are addressing fire risk neighborhood by neighborhood. Nevada County now has more Firewise Communities than any county in the country.

The City of Grass Valley, that is the City Council and City staff, is currently discussing what the City might do to reduce fire risk within the City. You are invited to participate in that discussion. As a City Councilmember, there are key questions I would like to hear answers on from my constituents. The big question, of course, is whether the City should play a bigger role in reducing fire risk. If you think so, then what should that role be? A proposal presented by staff focuses primarily on vegetation management to reduce fuel loads, as well as increasing fire response capability with additional Fire Department staffing.

Other options exist. Should the city work with neighborhood groups, such as Firewise Communities? Should the City help with the removal of trees and tree trimmings? Should the city help property owners improve defensible space around buildings and “harden” homes against fire? Should the city provide extra assistance to particular groups, such as the elderly or those with low incomes? Should the City increase its educational efforts about fire risk, to help property owners understand their and their neighbors’ risks, and their responsibility to act to reduce risk? Should the city increase enforcement action to incentivize property owners to better protect their properties from fire risk?

If the city moves forward on fire risk mitigation, how do we pay for it? Should there be a sales tax? A parcel tax? If so, how much? If not, how should it be paid for? Should other city services be trimmed to shift funds to fire mitigation? If so, which services? Or should the city apply for grant funding and wait for it to be available? Some of these things to reduce risk could be done with existing funds but could be done on a larger scale and much faster with additional funding.

It is important to understand that any additional tax cannot be imposed by the City Council. This is a question that only voters can decide. So, the Council, late in October, will probably be considering whether to submit a measure to voters for the March Primary Election ballot. If a tax measure is presented to voters, a big question is whether it should be a general tax (50+% majority required) intended for fire-related purposes, with an oversight committee to monitor expenditures, or a special tax (two-thirds majority required) that could ONLY be used for the specified purposes? If a tax is proposed, should it have a sunset clause, ending the tax after some number of years?

I want to know what the people of Grass Valley think about the above. As your Councilmember, I want to represent you effectively on these issues. I’m sure my fellow Councilmembers would also like your input. Fire risk is a big issue. A possible tax is a big issue. How do YOU think we should answer these questions?

The City Council will hold a Townhall meeting at 6 pm Tuesday night, October 3, at Sierra College in Building N12. We invite your attendance and participation in this discussion. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may provide comments by telephone voicemail (530-274-4390) or by email (

Bob Branstrom

Grass Valley City Councilmember