Long-delayed county fire plan up for vote today | TheUnion.com

Long-delayed county fire plan up for vote today

Nevada County supervisors today are poised to approve a plan in the works for half a decade that promotes community wildfire protection.

Less than two weeks ago, the county Planning Commission unanimously agreed to incorporate components of a fire plan approved by county supervisors last December, clearing the way for today’s decision.

But the Nevada County Grand Jury has criticized the plan and has recommended returning its “teeth” by mandating property owners to comply with state defensible space laws. Defensible space is a key component of fire safety and required by the state of California.

Some property owners have complained the new plan is too complicated, while others say the county needs to shoulder more responsibility for making neighborhoods safe against wildfire.

“They wanted the county to take over all the costs. It’s the state’s responsibility,” District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston said. “This thing has gone way too long.”

“We’re ready to move it forward,” District 2 Supervisor Sue Horne said.

Others are surprised that, given the outcome, why it took so long to approve a plan that puts most of the responsibility on the homeowner anyway.

For eight years, two county inspectors from the county’s Community Development Agency have gone door to door, inspecting properties for fire-wise clearing, Weston said.

When homeowners violate the state’s 100-foot clearance law, county inspectors notify Calfire officials, who then decide whether to issue a citation, he said.

The county does not employ any law enforcement officers for the purpose of issuing tickets for non-compliance of the fire law and does not have money in its budget to do so, Weston said.

“Would I like to get more inspectors? You bet, if we could come up with the funding. Maybe it makes more sense to provide money to the Fire Safe Council,” Weston said.

The Nevada County Fire Safe Council had to suspend its chipping program last week when it became apparent that state and federal grants were stalled by budget impasses.

In the eastern side of the county, little attention has been paid to the fire plan, partly because homeowners associations and fire departments regularly hand out notices to property owners who don’t follow the law, said District 5 Supervisor Ted Owens.

“If you want to live in a forested environment, you have to take responsibility for it,” Owens said.

The revised general plan includes emergency preparedness guidelines for fire and other natural and manmade disasters.

Designed as a working document that can change as supervisors see a need, the plan includes 56 recommendations separated into cost and no-cost categories.

Recommendations with costs will require approval by county supervisors.

A separate education document for property owners is still in the works by planning department staff.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time clarifying tomorrow,” Owens said.

Supervisors will address the issue at 1:30 p.m. in the board chambers of the Eric Rood Administrative Building, 950 Maidu Ave. in Nevada City. The meeting begins at 9 a.m.

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