Scott Young: Take action before tragedy strikes
August 26, 2018
To the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Consolidated Fire District, Fire Safe Council, PG&E and other agencies concerned with helping prevent wild fires in our beautiful Nevada County:
I live on Nishinam Gulch Road, which connects to Yuba Crest, which in turn connects to a network of roads off McKitrick Ranch Road and the network of roads off Owl Creek.
The reason I'm so specific about these roads has to do with their position as natural and obvious fire breaks for any fire sweeping up from the South Yuba canyon (much as the 49er Fire did back in the day.) These are alternate escape routes for all of the people down Owl Creek and along Jones Bar, in the event Jones Bar is closed by fires (as it nearly was last year in the Rough and Ready fire.)
I'm sure other private roads throughout the county offer similar potential for acting as fire breaks, but this column is focused on the ones I know best.
Here’s the problem: These roads are not maintained by the county, the fire departments or the Fire Safe Council.
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Here's the problem: These roads are not maintained by the county, the fire departments or the Fire Safe Council. The best we have here is PG&E's trim crews, and they work only on trees close to poles and lines.
The majority of these roads are either not maintained at all (Nishinam and Yuba Crest) or maintained only by neighborhood efforts. This means they are extraordinarily rough, and banked by dry brush, dead trees and other extremely flammable materials. In the event of a fire, it is almost certain more than one car would be unable to pass Nishinam Gulch Road, thus blocking the county-mandated fire escape route and potentially exposing both residences and people to extreme danger.
My suggestion is to get on top of this issue before the fire comes through, rather than waiting for the inevitable fire, the panicky evacuations, and the extreme risk of loss. An article in The Sacramento Bee recently indicates Nevada County is in the list of California counties most likely to burn, which is not really new news.
If some county resources were combined with neighborhood work parties, I believe we could smooth those aspects of the roads that are currently almost impossible to pass, and clear brush on both sides, thus creating better fire breaks. If this work were done now, or soon, it wouldn't cost nearly as much as defending against the inevitable fire, and would represent forward thinking and planning. It is likely these actions would save property, maybe lives.
Running a bulldozer, road grader and gravel over these roads right away and every two years thereafter would cost the county less than $50,000, money well spent in fire prevention, and help stop the fires from spreading through the brushy areas from these roads all the way to Rough and Ready and Newtown Road, and possibly further in both directions.
Efforts could be made to include all agencies with an interest in this work, including PG&E, and to leverage state fire management funds (paid for by our additional taxes), thus saving money (and lives) for all.
As we all know, Nevada County is one of the principal targets for destructive wildfires. Let's get ahead of this issue now, before tragedy strikes. Thanks for listening.
Scott V. Young lives in Nevada City.
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