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Supervisors approve fire defense zones

The Union staff

During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Nevada County’s Office of Emergency Services presented several wildfire mitigation and planning projects for approval. The presentation included three newly introduced large-scale defense zones, which were approved.

“Creating more protection with shaded fuel breaks, improving evacuation routes, and supporting landowners to create defensible space helps us move closer to our goal,” said Craig Griesbach, director of OES.

Griesbach added that the board’s action would help his organization move forward with 1,000 acres of new protection for residents of western Nevada County.

Fire Safe Council of Nevada County brought to OES the South County Shaded Fuel Break, an effort that include 339 acres for 226 privately owned parcels in and around Alta Sierra. The plan will help improve evacuation routes and address heavy fuels in the areas around Lodestar, Buck Mountain, and Brewer Roads and Sharmiden Way.

Fire Safe Council executive director Jamie Jones said: “We want the community to be engaged and consider themselves partners in this work. Starting this month, we’re going to have a project kickoff with a town hall for people in the project footprint area.”

The Woodpecker Ravine Shaded Fuel Break, also approved, will encompass 410 acres that will treat private property along key evacuation routes including Rattlesnake, Mount Olive, and Lower Colfax Roads. Additionally, the project will focus on strategic ridgelines to create a cohesive wildfire defense zone.

“Woodpecker Ravine has over 700 homes tucked within a steep drainage that has dense vegetation,” Griesbach said, “ and downed trees that have turned into fuel after the winter storms. We are grateful to CalFire for their support of this project and are hopeful that local investment will allow us to pull down more federal dollars to really make an impact.

Nevada County OES recently learned that the Woodpecker Ravine project has advanced to cultural and environmental review and that FEMA—through funding through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program—is expected to be obligated in Fall 2023. The project will include defensible space treatments, home hardening, and education and would require a 25 percent local match.

$1.5 million has been secured for the Ponderosa, West Grass Valley Defense Zone Phase Two project which will be funded partially by $750,000 of Congressionally Directed Spending. The county will match those funds with its own $772,282.

This project will expand on Phase I, adding 300 acres to the project footprint, and will add protection to the communities of Grass Valley, Penn Valley, Rough & Ready, and Alta Sierra.

“Having three large-scaled fuel break projects moving forward simultaneously is unprecedented for us,” said Griesbach. “In recent meetings with stakeholders we’ve identified over 60 wildfire mitigation projects and programs that would require $36 million annually to complete, and that’s what we’re working towards.”

CalFire provided in excess of $3 million in grant funding for both the South County Shaded and Woodpecker Ravine Shaded Fuel Break projects.

The OES states that 92 percent of Nevada County residents live in high to very high severity zones, and will continue a proactive effort to protect again loss of life and property year-round.



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