Christine Winter: Undeveloped parcel a fire risk, not maintained | TheUnion.com
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Christine Winter: Undeveloped parcel a fire risk, not maintained

Other Voices
Christine Winter

My husband and I moved into Lake Wildwood in January of 2019 on Wildflower Drive. We are concerned about the fire hazard that is ever present behind our home.

Our home backs onto the vacant/undeveloped parcel of land that is part of the Wildwood Ridge property. This property is extremely overgrown and, considering all the fire safe activity that is occurring presently in the Lake Wildwood community and Nevada County, we were hoping to be able to have much of the land behind Wildflower Drive cleared of debris (underbrush and deadwood) which is fuel for a fire.

We have been attempting to contact those connected to this property to reach an agreement about dealing with this overgrowth since spring of last year. Tracking down those responsible for this parcel of land has been extremely difficult and we have been told by reliable sources that it reaches a level of inquiry within the county where the inquirers are told to, quite literally, “back off” and nothing more is done other than mowing a small strip annually between the houses and trees. This area requires more than annual mowing. We have also been told by another reliable source that this particular parcel has been a problem for 15 to 20 years.

According to this same source, there used to be fire trails that were maintained as emergency exits for Lake Wildwood residents. However, these have now been allowed to overgrow and become inaccessible and are no longer available for evacuation purposes.

There would be no way of stopping or controlling a fire if it came through this parcel of land and thus is a hazard to the homes along Wildflower Drive and subsequently more extensive sections of Lake Wildwood.

Following investigations around the fire risk in Lake Wildwood, it has been discovered that in 1988-89 there was a wildfire, named the “49er Fire,” which decimated much of the area within Lake Wildwood and surrounding areas, which came through the area in question. In light of this and the Camp Fire in Paradise in 2018, we are extremely concerned with the upcoming fire season. This land has a build-up of fire fuel spanning 32 years, including trees that were burned at the time and not cleared!

Last year, both a Nevada County official and a representative of the property owner inspected the area and, apart from a few minor areas, they would not assist any further with clearance of the underbrush and said they would only keep to the 100-foot limit from structures, as the law apparently provides.

Together with this worrying attitude from the property owner, is the ever-present risk of sparks being thrown up by the trail bikes that are regularly heard being ridden through this area. Should this occur, this area would catch fire and quickly become a major problem.

As per the letter received by residents on Saturday May 4, 2020, Nevada County is urging all residents to be “fire wise” and “fire ready.” The county is requiring all residents to maintain that the areas around their homes are free of debris. The excerpt below is from the above notice received by residents:

The California Code of Regulations and guidance from the National and International Fire Protection Association advise that; “dead and dying woody surface fuels and aerial fuels be removed. Loose organic material shall be permitted to a maximum depth of 3 inches” [14 CCR § 1229.03(b)(2)(A)].

Also, they stipulate that residents “remove all dead and dying grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches, leaves, weeds and needles [14CCR § 1299.03 (a) (1)].

The letter stated that Nevada County boasts that it has the “second highest number of Firewise Communities in the state.”

The area in question behind ours and others homes bordering this parcel of land is another Campfire/Paradise Fire disaster waiting to happen. If residents are expected to be “Firewise” and “Firesafe,” why is the same not expected of the absent owners of undeveloped land that is presently presenting a significant risk to properties adjoining them and potentially the lives of residents?

Christine Winter lives in Penn Valley.


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