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Other voices: New fire plan worthy of public’s support

Wildfire is the most impending natural disaster stalking Nevada County. Eighteen months ago, the Federation of Neighborhood Associations (FoNA) joined a number of other citizen groups to oppose the Nevada County Fire Plan as significantly flawed, pointing to the Healthy Forest Restoration Act’s (2003) wildfire planning guidelines and the Nevada County Planning Department’s own “Initial Study” of natural resource impacts as fundamental reasons.

FoNA recommended the fire plan be changed in measurable ways to become a meaningful document guiding wildfire planning in Nevada County. Specifically, we recommended that the county:

1) Implement the Fuel Management Prescriptions for Defensible Space around homes and structures (California Public Resource Code 4291);



2) Put on hold the current “Community Fuels Management Plan” (Appendix C);

3) Conduct comprehensive planning studies establishing the basis for community area wildfire plans – including local fuels reduction prescriptions – utilizing recognized professional planning standards;




4) Address all natural resource and infrastructure concerns documented in the “Initial Study.”

Since then, Jeff Dunning and the Fire Plan Committee have kindly allowed FoNA to work with them to address this critical issue. This summer, a rough draft of the reworked plan was presented to the public for additional comment. The Fire Plan Committee has now completed its work and is planning a public meeting in November for community review.

FoNA completely supports this new version of the Nevada County Fire Plan. Deputy County Fire Chief Kathleen Edwards has done a superb job of sorting and addressing literally hundreds of public comments and reorganizing and rewriting the entire plan. The plan has been transformed from a narrow prescription for fuels reduction into a clear, comprehensive, collaborative design for countywide preparation.

This new plan establishes clear guidelines for emergency communications, evacuation planning and implementation, mechanisms for community input and fuels reduction. This is via the Fire Safe Council, “good neighbor” responsibilities for defensible space based on PRC Code 4291, environmental guidelines for responsible fuels reduction and the establishment and funding of a county fire marshal’s office to administer this very complex and critical issue.

While this new version of the fire plan has eliminated the requirement of excessive fuels reduction on 80 percent of all land in parcels under 10 acres, citizens must understand they still have a personal responsibility to themselves and their neighbors to reduce the tremendous fuel load that 100 years of fire prevention have added to our county. The Angora Fire unfortunately demonstrated this quite graphically this summer. But the Tahoe-Donner Fire also demonstrated that cooperative, community developed fire-brakes and planned fuels reduction can make a very big difference.

FoNA will continue to work with the Fire Safe Council, the national FireWise program, and county fire officials to educate homeowners about wildfire. Please join us in making our homes safer and in supporting the Nevada County Fire Plan.

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Warren Knox is a consulting physicist living in Nevada City. He is currently the chair of the Fire Committee and vice president of the Federation of Neighborhood Associations. Hw is also vice chair of the Greater Champion Neighborhood Association.


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