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Now is the time for action on future fire protection for NC

I hope the ever enlarging hole in the heart of Nevada City left by the devastating fire in the old Elks building is enough to get the decision makers off the fence and into more than a discussion of the future of our fine city.

If you add up a strange sequence of circumstances, it is lucky that only one building was totally lost and not the entire block. Or worse scenario, all of downtown Nevada City.



Starting back when decisions were made to turn the fair city into a Hysterical Extravaganza. The decision was the fatal beginning of Ground Zero – Nevada City.




With ordinances discussed and finally passed by the City Council, one at a time, the ability to upgrade any part of a building within the historical district became near impossible. Even with the passing of time and the increased ability of the builder’s market to come up with materials that looked centuries old but are new, and most of all fire-safe, the city council in most cases rejected the new materials.

This rejection might have helped the city to gain or keep a historical status, but measured against the possibility of a devastating fire, it seems as though the city is keeping it’s head in the ground, pretending that this possibility does not exist.

After Nevada City was already classified as a tourist area, the push to keep it historical continued. If you asked any of the guests in the city, I believe you would find them coming to the city whether it was listed as historical or not. They just seem to enjoy the area and the ambiance.

Fire officials from Nevada City continued to harp on the possibility of a fire in the downtown district and what could be done to hold it to a minimum, or better yet, not get it started. These occasional red flags were only considered momentarily and then discarded as the boy crying wolf.

If nothing else, through the past 20 to 30 years, if building owners were forced to place a fire sprinkler system inside the buildings, the possibility of a devastating fire would be reduced. The price of the system might out-weigh someone’s ability to buy the building and upgrade it, but it would be worth the price, no?

Some buildings inside the historical district already have fire sprinkler systems. We now must focus on the remaining buildings and up-grade each and every building to make the city safe from a fire within.

Getting closer to the day of the devastating fire, another red flag went off when a small fire in the laundry room of Friar Tuck’s was put out before the arrival of city fire personnel.

Looking back, this small fire should have been more than a red flag. Something was drastically wrong. If employees were not being careful around equipment, if the equipment overloaded the electrical outlets, if equipment settings were too high, or if another unknown cause brought about this first small fire, it definitely needed more investigation before Friar Tuck’s was allowed to continue operating. One or two days of closure would far surpass the ultimate conclusion of this event.

The night before the big fire, it was just plain luck that fire personnel were sleeping over at Nevada City’s new firehouse. Even though it takes six people to rightfully outfit a fire truck, two can get it on the road and racing toward the point of origin. Reaction time varies, but at least another 20 minutes would have passed before a truck left the firehouse if no one had been there.

That time was not enough to save the old Elks building, but it did have an impact on most of the buildings surrounding the initial fire.

So now, like so many times in the past, the future of fire protection within the city is in the hands of the City Council. And the vote must go only one way:

No. 1, require fire sprinkler systems in all historical district buildings, and No. 2, approve the new plan by the city fire department, coupled with the 49er District Fire and the Consolidated Fire Department, that would keep fire personnel in the new firehouse every night.

Co-operation between fire departments, combined with fire sprinkler systems in all buildings within the historical district of Nevada City, will go a long way toward making our city fire-safe.

Rosalee Evans, a Nevada City resident, writes a monthly column.


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