Nevada County increases fire safety funding | TheUnion.com

Nevada County increases fire safety funding

John Orona
Staff Writer

Coming soon?

The following communities are slated to participate in the next round of firewise certification:

Dalmatian Drive (District 1)

Echo Ridge (District 1)

Harmony (District 1)

Washington/Hill (District 3)

6B Ranch and Friends (District 4)

Bitney Springs (District 4)

Robinson-Byron – Brem (District 4)

Cruzon Grade (District 4)

Kentucky Flat (District 4)

Squirrel Creek Ranches HOA (District 4)

West Sages (District 4)

Donner Lake Woods (District 5)

Pine Forest (District 5)

• Scotts Flat Pines Neighborhood (District 5)

• Washington (District 5)

Nevada County residents will benefit from more than $60,000 in additional funding for fire prevention and education activities after the board of supervisors amended two contracts with the county on Tuesday.

The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, a volunteer-led nonprofit focused on protecting communities from wildfires, received an $18,000 boost to its original $60,000 contract in order to certify 15 additional neighborhoods in the Firewise Communities program, a nationally-recognized distinction that verifies communities that have made efforts to harden their homes from fire.

“I always thought the Fire Safe Council was an important partnership to the county and now it’s more important than ever,” District 2 Supervisor Ed Scofield said. “Maybe, other than the fire districts themselves, they are our best partner.”

The funding will go toward contracting foresters and fire officials who create tailored Firewise community assessment plans, in conjunction with homeowners who are then certified by Cal Fire. Community members must then invest and document at least $2 per capita per year on Firewise projects, such as volunteer work like clearing roadsides, creating defensible spaces and reducing fuel load.

“The first step is to have a committee formed in your neighborhood, which can be just you and your neighbor if that’s what your neighborhood dictates,” said Jamie Jones, executive director of the Fire Safe Council. “After that it’s really just about giving us a call to our office and letting us know you’re interested.”

IN HIGH DEMAND

The communities set for certification were chosen based on a waiting list, as well as acreage and residential concentration. Currently 37 Nevada County communities are certified as “Firewise” with at least four others in the assessment phase, up from just 23 certified communities last year, Jones said.

The program has become in such high demand that the waiting list spans tens of communities and can take years of wait time. This has led some communities like Deer Creek Southside to self-fund the program, which can cost about $1,200-$2,000 per community, according to council Board Chairman Donn Thane.

“Communities are recognizing the importance of (this program) and are taking the initiative,” Thane said. “Some insurance companies are actually giving discounts to homeowners who go through the program.”

Although some insurance carriers such as USAA have been willing to file rate reductions with the California Insurance Commissioner for homeowners who have participated in the Firewise Communities program, most insurers use FireLine to assess risk, which doesn’t take the Firewise certification into account.

MEETING NEIGHBORS

According to District 4 Supervisor Susan Hoek, the program is not only important for its education and safety efforts, but because it’s bringing communities closer together.

“It’s also about building community,” Hoek said. “People used to hide from each other and now people are having conversations and getting to know their neighbors and learning about fire safety. I’ve never seen so many people engaged in cleaning their yards.”

The Board of Supervisors also amended a contract with Sheila Cameron to increase fire prevention and outreach efforts to $45,000 — doubling the contract length and payment terms.

Cameron, who was responsible for getting the word out about Ready Nevada County, said the new contract will allow her to continue providing information and outreach the community needs.

“I think the board saw that when we put the information out there the community responded well and that’s something we want to continue,” Cameron said. “We just try to keep everyone engaged and take the fear and concern that’s out there and turn it into action to make everyone safer. We want to meet people where they are with the information they need so that everything is clear and there’s no confusion out there, particularly with something as important as fire safety.”

Contact Staff Writer John Orona at jorona@theunion.com or 530-477-4229.


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