Nevada County Grand Jury tackles wildfire preparedness | TheUnion.com
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Nevada County Grand Jury tackles wildfire preparedness

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For the entire Nevada County Grand Jury report,”Facing Year-Long Fires Seasons: Are We Prepared?” go to http://nccourt.net/documents/gjreports/1819-COG-NevadaCountyWildFirePreparedness.pdf.

Nevada County has made great strides in recent years when it comes to wildfire education and preparedness. But the county needs to amp up its fire prevention efforts, the 2018-2019 Nevada County Grand Jury has found.

The grand jury this week released a new report, ”Facing Year-Long Fire Seasons: Are We Prepared?” that examines both fire prevention efforts and the viability of local roads for evacuation efforts in case of a fire. The jury found a number of problems to support an overall conclusion that the county’s fire preparedness practices are not consistent with best practices.

The grand jury found current county fire prevention activities are patchworked and should be better coordinated among the multiple fire districts, nonprofits, homeowners associations and residents. Specifically, the grand jury recommended the county establish a dedicated fire prevention coordinator who reports directly to the County Executive Officer, with regular reports to the Board of Supervisors.

Defensible space is also covered, which notes the county has no enforcement mechanism to defensible space violations on unoccupied properties. Nevada County is hiring four part-time defensible space inspectors limited to 1,000 hours a year, compared to six full-time positions in 1975.

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“The county does not allocate sufficient budgetary resources for its abatement ordinance or fire prevention efforts,” the report states. “The defensible space inspection program should be expanded into a year-round program staffed by a minimum of two full-time employees in addition to the four current part-time positions.”

Additionally, the jury recommended funding additional programs to help homeowners in vegetation management and removal.

Evacuation planning also came under fire, with the report finding the county has no comprehensive plan. There are 600 miles of county-maintained roads, with a stated goal of clearing 100 miles a year. The county has averaged much less in recent years, however, between 50 and 100 miles of road cleared a year.

“Best practices dictate clearing each county road every three to five years at a minimum,” the report states, adding the roads should be cleared at least every five years.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


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