County in step with federal fire plans |

County in step with federal fire plans

Nevada County is already in line with a federal call Tuesday to do a better job thinning choked forests to avert catastrophic wildfires.

A report from the federal Government Accountability Office said progress has been made toward thinning forests in the American west since the nonpartisan office called for such wildfire prevention efforts in 1999.

But the follow-up report to the GAO’s initial call for a western fire plan and thinning strategy said a national plan should be devised that will reach to and fund individual communities’ efforts.

Locally, the Nevada County Fire Safe Council is already coordinating fire breaks and helping plan neighborhood thinning projects. The Tahoe National Forest thins and clears through logging, chip sales and burns with various federal funding sources.

“It’s our No. 1 priority,” said Anne Westling, spokeswoman for the forest service.

The Nevada County Fire Plan just completed last year also plays into what the GAO is talking about and dovetails with the National Fire Plan, said fire plan panel member Tim Fike. He is also chief of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District.

But Fire Safe Council Executive Director Michelle Phillips said, “our big issue is the steady flow of money.” The funding is needed for clearing and chipping projects in neighborhoods. Phillips just finished applying for $906,000 in grants for 16 projects in next year’s cycle and agrees with the GAO that constant funding needs to be established to tackle the problem.

Eric Antebi of the Sierra Club in San Francisco said the group wants to see the regional strategy weighted toward thinning in areas around communities and away from the back country. “We definitely want more resources going directly to the community, and that means funding for clearing on non-federal lands.”

Foresters and the U.S. Forest Service contend cutting in rural areas is also needed to stop large fires from raging into towns.

“I’ve fought fires throughout the west,” Fike said. “The forest hits the urban interface and it’s a tinder box.”

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