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Nevada County residents urged to start fire fuel reduction

Now’s the time to remove weeds, dead leaves and pine needles.

“Cal Fire declared flammable vegetation management has to be maintained through October 31 or the end of the fire season, whichever comes first,” said Grass Valley/Nevada City Fire Chief Mark Buttron in a news release.

Some 4.3 million acres burned in 2020 across California, the most ever documented in the state’s history. Just the past year, nearly 2.6 million acres burned. And as of May 29, Cal Fire said 711 wildfires have burned 10,861 acres.

Residents should ask themselves, Buttron said, “Am I doing the right thing the wrong way, such as trying to eliminate fire hazards around the home yet in the process starting a wildland fire?”

Lawn mowers, weed eaters, chainsaws, grinders, welders, tractors and trimmers can all spark a wildfire. Everyone can do their part by using appropriate measures to keep the county fire safe. Residents are urged to perform all yard maintenance requiring a gas or electrical motor before 10 a.m. This machinery should not be used in the heat of the day or when the wind is blowing.

Buttron said residents need to mitigate fire fuel growth on improved or unimproved property less than or equal to an acre. He recommends the entire property be mowed, so flammable vegetation is no higher than 4 inches. The roof of every building must be free of flammable vegetation, and there can be no portion of any tree within 10 feet of the outlet of a chimney, stovepipe or electrical power service drop. Any plant, tree, or shrub adjacent to or overhanging a building should be free of dead or dying wood. Trees must be free of branches 6 feet from the ground.

For an improved or unimproved property bigger than an acre, and for a property abutting an improved property, there must be a 15-foot clearance from the property line. If a property abuts a public or private right-of-way, or a fire apparatus access road, there must be a 30-foot clearance zone from the edge of a sidewalk or street line, if no sidewalk.


Another important tool for fire safety is the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone, a cooperative effort between Nevada County, the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County and Cal Fire. Fuel breaks are a measure to slow the spread of fire, protect vital infrastructure and provide firefighters a safe space from which to battle fires.

Unlike a fire break, this zone is a shaded fuel break, and does not clear cut all vegetation to bare mineral soil. Instead, fire fuels are reduced so there is less fuel to burn, limiting a fire’s ability to spread, which reduces heat intensity. If completed properly, it benefits property owners who desire to retain the natural beauty of land while becoming fire safe.

Phase I of the shaded fuel break was completed in March. On May 19, U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa said the county will receive $750,000 in federal support for fuel reduction efforts on 600 acres of overgrown private lands as part of Phase II of the Ponderosa West Defense Zone. The aim is to combine this with additional funding that provides another 400 acres of fuel reduction on adjacent Bureau of Land Management land.

“It’s really one of the first of its kind,” Jamie Jones, executive director of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, has said. “It’s kind of served as a model for other collaborative partnerships.”

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at wroller@theunion.com

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