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Wildfire prep in Nevada County continues virtually during pandemic

Grass Valley Firefighter Kevin Baer attending a Truck Company Academy in Los Angeles County, a hands-on training focusing on truck company specific skills, including vertical ventilation and forcible entry.
Photo courtesy Grass Valley Fire Department

Add wildfire prevention efforts to the long list of events that have been canceled by pandemic concerns.

A fire and evacuation drill for Banner Mountain and Cascade Shores residents planned for May 31 has been canceled due to COVID-19. 

The day-long exercise, hosted by Cal Fire and the respective Firewise communities, would have provided an opportunity for firefighters and first responders, as well as residents, to practice for a wildfire, complete with hose lays, evacuations, and other scenarios like traffic accidents.

Similar “wildland urban interface” drills were conducted last year in areas like Lake of the Pines.

“A lot of effort went into the set-up,” said Cascade Shores Firewise Committee member Joan Hardy. “We are disappointed, but in the big scheme of things, we understand. We felt really strongly it wasn’t a good idea to have the community involved at this time. And the fire departments also felt they did not want to have staff exposed.”

Hardy said she hopes the drill will be rescheduled for next year.

In the meantime, she said, the Firewise Committees have sent out notices with links to resources. And, Hardy said, home advisory visits are available for anyone concerned with making their properties fire safe.

Nevada County residents will have the opportunity to hear from wildfire experts, and get their questions answered on Thursday during a virtual town hall hosted by Nevada County Office of Emergency Services and YubaNet. Emergency services personnel are coordinating with Truckee and will host a similar virtual event with a focus on eastern Nevada County residents in the near future.

Confirmed panelists include Cal Fire, Grass Valley-Nevada City Fire Chief Mark Buttron, Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief Jim Turner, OES Program Manager Paul Cummings and Emergency Operations Coordinator Lt. Bob Jakobs. A new addition is Public Works Director Trisha Tillotson, who will discuss grant funding for hazardous material removal on county roads.

Wildfire danger

“Fire season is here,” said OES Administrative Analyst Jenn Tamo. “One of things we’ve been doing is getting the community to start thinking about what they can do and how they can get involved.”

With wildfire danger just around the corner, Tamo said, residents need to start thinking about defensible space.

Tamo said letters with checklists recently went out, and will be followed up with the “Ready Nevada County” handbook.

“We’re trying to highlight the importance of actively reducing the threat of wildfire,” she said. “We can still connect online.”

The town hall will have a lot of time for Q&A, Tamo said, adding, “We want the community to feel they can have their questions answered.”

The county is continuing its defensible space inspection program, although hiring for two of four budgeted positions has been frozen for the time being. A full-time lead inspector position was hired and a part-time position currently is being trained, Tamo said. The county just approved funding for a continued memorandum of understanding with Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, which manages its inspection program.

Tamo also highlighted the county’s Free Residential Green Waste Event from Sunday to June 27, with three sites where people can drop waste off, and two sites to pick up wood chips.

“We received a grant to expand the programming,” she said, citing an increased concern over particulates in the air during a respiratory pandemic. “This will help increase alternatives to burning not just in western Nevada County, but we’re also working with Truckee, doing four weeks of green waste disposal at the rodeo fairgrounds. That will be four Fridays in May and June.”


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Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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