Increase in wildland fire protection good for all |

Increase in wildland fire protection good for all

In view of the recent grand jury report (The Union, Feb. 4, “Fire Risk Dire …”), it is time that this county take a more proactive stance in terms of wildland fire protection.

Despite the progress made by the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fuels Reduction Program and the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, more needs to be done.

The free chipping programs offered by both the Fire Safe Council and the CDF Fuels Reduction Program have inspired county residents to clear brush around their homes and property lines. Both programs offer speakers who will go to groups such as homeowners’ associations, etc., and this has proved to be successful in informing the public about the dangers of wildland fires and how to reduce or eliminate them. Consolidated’s efforts at citing overgrown lots as a public nuisance has resulted in 400 acres of Alta Sierra and Banner Mountain alone being brought up to compliance.

We feel that in order to protect the forest, we don’t have to cut down every single tree. Fire protection can be accomplished by simply thinning out dead and overcrowded plant materials with tools that have a low impact on the environment. We accomplish this by using chain saws, brush saws, power pruners and other hand tools.

This work is not only beneficial from a fire-protection standpoint, but is good for the environment, as well. Thinning out and eliminating superfluous plant material to a more natural state reduces competition for nutrients. Plant health in the wildlands of Nevada County is at an all-time low. The low-growing chaparral is not only choking itself out (witness the stands of dying manzanita, etc.), but is also killing larger species, particularly our Ponderosa pines. One cannot help but notice the increasing number of dead and dying pine trees along the sides of our roads.

The aesthetic enhancement is another benefit. Simply seeing what lies beneath the underbrush is of significant value. Quite often, a desired natural landscape is revealed. Simply removing lower branches can create views never before seen. After completion of this work, the selection of a building site, driveway, garden area, etc., can be facilitated. Also, this work could create accessibility for other work, such as well drilling and septic tank installation for an undeveloped property.

The grand jury report mentioned in The Union mainly focused on public safety funds, on how the money is being spent and where. While this is of prime importance, The Union article went on to quote Tony Clarabut, unit chief at CDF. “It’s not all about public money,” he said. Property owners should step up to the plate and maintain their properties.

The private property owners have many resources to take advantage of in order to solve such problems. The free chipping program (phone number, 265-4800) is the ideal method of disposing of the material once it is cut and stacked. This is a far superior method to burning and hauling, which are less efficient and have a more severe impact on the environment. The homeowners themselves can do the initial cutting and stacking. If one is in reasonably good shape and has the time and equipment, it can make for a great family activity.

There are also several locally owned businesses that do this work, from heavy-equipment operators, to masticating machines (sort of a chipper on wheels), to companies (such as ours) that do it selectively with hand-power equipment. A list of recommended businesses that do this work can be obtained from the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District (273-3158), the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (470-9193) or the CDF Fuels Reduction Program (265-2678).

The importance of this work is crucial. The cost of fighting a fire far exceeds that of fuels reduction. This is of most importance when considering California’s current budget crisis. We can create a patchwork of individually owned properties that are compliant in terms of fire safety, creating a contiguous firebreak throughout the county. While the efforts of my company and others like it, and the efforts of the public agencies involved have increased over the years,we’re just getting started!

Chris Le Gate, Lake Olympia Landscape and Brush Clearing Services, Grass Valley

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