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Residents seek grant to reduce fire danger

“These little canyons here are chimneys,” said Bill Beckner, a resident of Mountain Lakes Estates, as dry manzanita branches scratched at the windows of the big SUV as it lurched down a narrow dirt road toward Deer Creek.

Chimneys, or chutes, filled with too-dense manzanita, dry weeds, dead cottonwoods and other fire fuel, lace miles of the Deer Creek watershed and would help funnel a wildfire uphill toward Ridge Road, Morgan Ranch, Nevada City, the Newtown Road area and downstream to Rough and Ready and Lake Wildwood, said Howard Stone, another concerned resident.

The canyon’s central location amid densely populated areas makes it a top priority for fire safety projects in western Nevada County, Beckner and Stone said Tuesday. Such areas are being identified by the Nevada County Fire Plan, which is being developed in greater detail as it nears an expected completion date in April.



But the residents of Mountain Lakes Estates aren’t waiting. Stone and Beckner, who also serve as president and vice president of the homeowners association, have been working with area fire officials, District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston (a former Grass Valley fire chief) and the county Fire Safe Council to write a grant seeking funding from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Fire Safe Council sent in the grant application last week.




They hope to get money to clear ladder fuels and thin remaining trees and bushes from 30 acres of land held in common by neighborhood property owners. The land stretches for about a mile along the creek and about 65 feet up each bank.

When cleared, it would form a fire break and staging area for firefighters battling a potentially disastrous blaze, Stone said.

But while property owners want to protect their homes from fire, they also want to preserve the common land for wildlife and for trails. The homeowners association has worked with Friends of Deer Creek, some of whom live in the upscale development, to make sure the brush-clearing plan would protect riparian habitat, Stone said.

Bears, mountain lions and coyotes come to the property after deer and rabbit, Stone said. German brown and rainbow trout swim in the river. Those creatures and the forest that sustains them form a vital part of what makes their homes valuable.

“We’re not going to clear out the trees,” Stone said. “It’s a balance.”

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To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail tkleist@theunion.com or call 477-4230.


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