Deborah Wilder: Do what it takes to make wildfire prevention a priority
One of the most critical issues Nevada County faces is with respect to emergency services, particularly the threat of wildfire.
The County Board of Supervisors says it is their priority too, but let’s take a look at what the county has done for the last three years.
Each year the county engages in clearing about 50 to 70 miles of county roads from brush and hazardous vegetation. At that rate, it will take the county approximately 10 years to clear all the county roads. Vegetation grows back faster than that. At the County Supervisor’s planning session two weeks ago, there was a discussion about researching a sales tax to help fund more vegetation control, but what is the plan for right now — before we get to fire season?
The plan is to continue to clear 50 to 70 road miles of hazardous vegetation. Nothing has changed in the last three years. For me, that is not an acceptable answer. Fire safety is critical, we need to move resources over to address this issue now.
There are 1,500 miles of private roads in the county. While the county is not legally responsible for clearing those roads, better communication with the private property owners is needed. Most property owners want to be fire safe and only need a little education and information to know what is appropriate for their property. The county currently has decent communications with property owners though the Consolidated Fire District, but communication to the rest of the county is sporadic at best.
When my husband and I first moved up here 12 years ago, we volunteered our time as CERT instructors for the county. CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is a federal program that provides training in emergency preparedness to the average citizen. It covers a variety of emergencies, including fire, and provides some basics in first aid, triage and communications. The course is 20 hours. I also conducted a Table Top exercise at Lake Wildwood dealing with fire evacuation. After two years, we were told the program was too expensive and the county was discontinuing it. I am not sure how expensive it could have been with free instructors and the training taking place in various churches in the community.
We need to reinstate CERT and coordinate those volunteers with the Fire Safe Council. The residents of Nevada County need to be better equipped and prepared in the case of an emergency, whether that is a PG&E Public Safety Power Outage, a wildfire or something else. The CERT program will do just that.
Many residents are asking about evacuation plans. When that question is raised, the response is that evacuation plans are under control of the sheriff’s office. That’s it, no further explanation. Frankly, that is not an answer.
Now evacuation plans can be challenging because you need more than one exit plan depending on where the fire is coming from and how the wind is blowing. I know our new sheriff, Shannan Moon, is now working on these plans. But my question is who was creating and updating the evacuation plans before Sheriff Moon was elected?
If fire safety was a top priority for our supervisors, what was being done two years ago and three years ago?
I know there are many challenging issues impacting our community: homelessness, workforce housing, broadband, a senior center, concerns over the cost and time to get building permits approved and more. But if wildfire management and emergency services is our top priority, then it needs to be treated as a top priority.
If you want the status quo to change, then you need to vote for that change. I would be honored to have your vote for District 1 Supervisor.
Deborah Wilder is a candidate running for District 1 Nevada County Supervisor.
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