Paul Matson: Firewise Communities team up vs. wildfire |

Paul Matson: Firewise Communities team up vs. wildfire


Shaded fire breaks have a park-like quality.

This year it’s difficult, if not impossible, to ignore the issues related to fire dangers and fire safety. There is, however, a lot of hope on the horizon.

Nevada County has roughly 50 Firewise Communities and is running neck and neck with Marin County for the most in California. It is projected that by the end of the year, our county will have 110 of these important community organizations, each working for improved fire safety in their respective regions.

I decided to join the Greater Champion Neighborhood Association, as one being near to me, in addition to its focus on the Deer Creek Canyon and its environs, an area that is both near and dear to me. They do hands-on work to reduce fuel loads, organize green waste pickups, and keep their neighborhood informed and involved.

Their stated goal is to protect “homes and other structures, water quality, forest health, wildlife habitat and recreation areas including bicycle and hiking trails.”

In the works is a project to transform a major section of the Deer Creek Canyon into a shaded fuel break. That means the flammables closest to the ground would be removed, and the trees thinned with enough of them remaining to provide shade. A team of six Firewise Communities — Deer Creek South Side, Echo Ridge, Foxwood-Slate Creek, Mountain Lakes Estates, Kentucky Flat and Greater Champion — are the proponents of this huge, important undertaking. Their primary focus will be community outreach.

CalFire carefully studied the region and created a map of the proposed work area. The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County is overseeing it all as the lead agency seeking funding and ultimately managing the work.

The canyon’s project area runs from Nevada City all the way down to Bitney Springs Road, a strip of the canyon that’s roughly five miles in length. The work would result in a Shaded Fuel Break in this part of the canyon. While a shaded fuel break is not fire proof, it slows the spread to the point that it can be much more easily extinguished. It also requires far fewer personnel to combat it, a key factor during fire season with the demands placed on our limited number of firefighters.

The specific work area is bounded by Bitney Springs Road, Newtown Road, Highway 49, Broad, Spring, Sacramento and Zions streets, Ridge Road and the Rough and Ready Highway. Once finished it will be maintained on an ongoing basis.

It goes without saying that stopping a fire within these boundaries will also go a long way to protecting all of the key neighborhoods adjacent to this large area of the canyon.

If you would like to join a Firewise Community relevant to your home or place of business, please contact the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County at Provide your name, address and phone number and ask for your Firewise Community and resident leader’s name and email. If you don’t use email, call the Fire Safe Council at 530-272-1122 and provide the above information. The resident leader will call you back.

And by the way, consider donating to the Fire Safe Council’s fine work as well, on behalf of all of us here in Nevada County. We will get there!

Paul Matson lives in Nevada City.


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