Getting on board: Fire defense zone residents signing up |

Getting on board: Fire defense zone residents signing up

The threat of wildfire and the loss of fire insurance is a real and present danger that many in Nevada County currently face.

But those living within the 1,200-acre footprint of the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone Project, however, can breathe a little easier.

The project, which encompasses a swath of land from the McCourtney Road transfer station north to Squirrel Creek Road, allows for property owners to use $3.5 million in grant funding to reduce fuels on their property, creating defensible space around their homes.

The fuel reduction comes at no cost to the property owner.

On Wednesday an informational meeting was held for residents within the defense zone that might still be on the fence about signing up.

“It sounds like they’re trying to help us out,” Ponderosa defense zone resident Jon Peek said. “You gotta sign up, though.”

Peek was one of about 80 community members who attended Wednesday’s meeting held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, and one of about 10 new property owners to jump on board with the project.

“I have people doing land clearing,” Peek said. “But not speedily enough.”

“It’s like winning the lottery,” Nevada County Fire Safe Council Executive Director Jamie Jones said. “They get free (land) treatment, and they get to tell us how they want it done.”

The anticipated grant funding was fast tracked by Gov. Gavin Newsom when he took office, immediately declaring an emergency to get funding for fire breaks and fuels reductions.

The money allows for different treatments depending on the needs of the project and the wants of the property owner.

The project

People can choose what vegetation will remain and can have abated vegetation chipped, have the understory burned or have the vegetation placed into burn piles. The prescribed burns would take place during a wet time of the year.

“They know their own property better than we do,” Jones said of the property owners.

About 63% of land owners within the defense zone have signed up for the fuels reduction.

While Jones said that most of the property owners have been very responsive, there are a handful of people that are still leery about letting people on their property, citing privacy issues or previous fuel reduction work.

“I’m hoping that neighbors will see that we’re not here to diminish your privacy or property,” Jones said.

Fuels reduction will occur on a first come, first served basis and has already begun on county owned property surrounding the McCourtney Road transfer station.

Inmate firefighters from the Washington Ridge hand crews have been busy removing excess vegetation and placing it into piles that will be burned during the rainy season.

Registered foresters from Forest Resource Solutions and Technologies have also begun working with landowners to assess what needs to be done on their properties.

“It’s a reforesting issue as well as a land management issue,” Jones said.

“Defensible space is our core issue, but it really is about bringing the neighborhood together, recognizing the danger, and then how to be safe during a wildfire event.”

Those within the project’s boundaries who would like to sign up for the fuels reduction can contact the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County at 530-272-1122.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email or call 530-477-4230.

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