2019-2020 Nevada County Grand Jury Report: Wildfire prevention
From a release:
Public discussion about wildfire has significantly increased over the last few years. Local residents have discussed defensible space, evacuation, home insurance, and the need for communitywide fire prevention efforts. Wildfire is a collective concern that often requires a collective solution. Stated differently, people can’t protect themselves from wildfire if neighbors are unwilling to do their share.
Over the past few years many members of the public have voluntarily stepped up, both by learning more about fire prevention and by responding to the education with increased activity. The number of voluntary defensible space inspections has increased significantly and community-wide free green waste cleanups have yielded impressive results. Area non-profit organizations and local fire districts have mobilized. More neighborhoods have come together to improve their community’s fire prevention activities and to receive Firewise Community certifications. Nevada County has increased personnel and the amount of money spent on fire prevention activities.
But more must be done.
Fire officials report “best practice” is to inspect properties and roads every five years. While there has been improvement, Nevada County remains below that level and there are not currently enough defensible space inspectors to reach that goal. While many resident’s welcome inspection, some do not. The Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) recognized this when they passed the Hazardous Vegetation Abatement Ordinance No. 2463 (Ordinance No. 2463), giving them the authority to enforce defensible space criteria and ultimately fine/abate property owners who are not in compliance.
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Defensible space inspectors are also authorized to enforce vegetation management requirements along private roads in Nevada County. This is significant because approximately two-thirds of the roads in the county are private, and privately maintained roads would be needed during a major evacuation.
Vacant parcels also present an interesting challenge for our community. Fire officials report the only existing vegetation management ordinances that cover vacant properties are in the areas where the vacant property might be part of a neighbor’s defensible space zone or along a roadway.
The 2019-2020 Grand Jury (Jury) agrees with fire officials that every property in the county should be inspected at some point over the next five years and that existing ordinances should be enforced. Further, the Jury believes private roads necessary for major evacuations should be inspected. To accomplish this, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) should increase the number of defensible space inspectors. It should be noted that inspections are completed by multiple sources (for example, CAL FIRE, the Fire Safe Council, some fire districts, local Homeowners Associations (HOA)), so not all properties would be inspected by County Office of Emergency Services (OES) personnel. In addition, the Jury recommends that the County BOS seek public input to develop an ordinance that appropriately addresses vegetation management on vacant property in the county.
The Nevada County Grand Jury is an investigatory body with the authority to act as a watchdog on local government, investigates citizen complaints, and assists in criminal matters at the request of the district attorney.
The Superior Court of California, County of Nevada is seeking applications from Nevada County citizens interested in an opportunity to serve on the 2020-2021 Grand Jury.
In order to meet the minimum qualifications for service on the Grand Jury, applicants must be United States citizens who are 18 years of age or older and who have resided in Nevada County for a minimum of one year immediately prior to becoming a grand juror. Service on the Grand Jury requires a substantial investment of time, usually 40-50 hours per month.
Additional information and applications for Grand Jury service are available by contacting the Grand Jury at (530) 265-1730, or by visiting the Nevada County Superior Court website at: http://www.nccourt.net and going to the Grand Jury link.
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