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Firefighters: Blazes highly possible

Fire season is fast approaching and fire officials say the lack of rainfall this year could spark a devastating fire if homeowners don’t take precautions to clear around their homes.

“My gut feeling, if all things hold true, is we’re at a great risk for another 49er Fire,” warned Rob Paulus, battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The 49er Fire burned 30,000 acres and 312 structures in 1988. It is ranked 13th in the state for the number of structures lost, said Joanne Drummond of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, which offers free chipping services to people who clear defensible spaces around their homes.



Fire is the No. 1 natural hazard the county faces.

If a fire of 49er magnitude were to sweep through the county now, Drummond predicted, 1,000 structures would be lost at a much higher cost because of the growth of upscale homes in the past 20 years.




Because there has been so little rain this year, a fuel moisture reading taken in January at the White Cloud campground read as if it were taken in October, Drummond said.

The Fire Safe Council, local fire departments and Calfire will soon be knocking on doors to get the word out that defensible space is the first step to preventing a wildfire from destroying homes. Now is the time to clear brush and dry limbs known as ladder fuels before hot weather hits, when sparks from chain saws and weed eaters risk starting a fire.

The Nevada County Fire Safe Council offers free consultation for land owners who want tips on how to clear their land. The council offers free defensible space chipping program and limited land clearing grants for seniors.

David Hanson owns 3 1/2 acres in Mountain View Estates and has taken advantage of the free chipping program for the past five years. Hanson said he likes not having to pay dump fees or start burn piles; now, he has mulch for his yard.

A burn ban will go into effect July 1 or sooner, Paulus said.

Tougher enforcement

Fire agencies will begin enforcing the 100-foot clearance law more heavily this year; those who resist compliance will be cited and fined.

Land owners are not mandated to denude their property, said Paulus. There can be islands of plants. Dead limbs should be removed, grass should be cut and trees should be limbed of their lowest branches.

Fire fighting trouble areas in the county include Rattlesnake Road, Woodpecker Ravine, Alta Sierra, Banner Mountain and the neighborhoods along the Deer Creek drainage including Rough and Ready, Cascade Shores and Morgan Ranch.

“The bottom line is, we don’t have enough fire engines for every home,” Paulus said, adding people need to prepare their homes to stand alone without the aid of a fire crew.

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To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

More info

For more information about defensible space and tips for making your home safe from fire:

• Call the Nevada County Fire Safe Council at 272-1122.

• Go to http://www.firesafe councilnevco.com.


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