Our View: Nevada County must become fire safe, or suffer the consequences
One way or another, you’ll pay for the hazardous vegetation around your home.
It might not be this summer or the next, but eventually fire will come to your neighborhood. Those who spend the time and money each year to create defensible space have a much better chance of saving their homes. Those who don’t will pay, maybe with their life.
Of course, creating that defensible space takes plenty of elbow grease and more often than not hard cash. Some of us have the physical ability and time to clear their land. Plenty of folks don’t, but have the cash to pay someone for the work.
And for those who have neither the ability or money? That’s a question Nevada County must address.
And it will, one way or another.
The county recently took the step of clearing one property owner’s land and moving toward placing a lien on her property. It’s a process that began in late 2016 and didn’t occur until January. A county board last month recommended the Board of Supervisors approve the total cost — $43,035.87.
That’s a hard pill for the landowner to swallow. However, the county had little choice. The carrot-and-stick method works on many, but not everyone. Supervisors put teeth into their hazardous abatement ordinance because, sometimes, it’s needed. Rules without enforcement serve no purpose.
Everyone who lives here should know about the ever-present fire danger we face. It isn’t getting better, and we need to take steps to improve it.
As the county’s proven, if we don’t take those steps, the government will.
There could be better ways to clear a recalcitrant property owner’s land. Maybe our elected leaders and staff will find them in years to come. Our issue is we have a fire fuel problem now, and it won’t wait for the perfect solution. The prior ordinance wasn’t providing the required result.
We might not have that result now, but we’re much closer.
It’s the homeowners’ responsibility to keep their land clear of tall grass and ladder fuels. Government interference should be the last resort, and it appears it was in the first case Nevada County chose to address.
That last resort, though, must remain an option. We need that resort, that carrot-and-stick, to incentivize landowners to clean their property and in the worst cases get it cleaned when they refuse.
This last resort shows that our county leaders are serious about removing fire fuels. Clear your property, or someone will do it for you. Either future fire or a county lien, your land will be free of dead trees and dangerous brush. If it comes to it, we hope it’s the latter.
Hopefully, it will never come to fire raging through our community. We must act every year like that threat is real, because it is. And we must work together to ensure our community remains fire safe.
“Community” is more than a word tossed around in these pages. It’s a place, our home, and we mean to keep it.
Work with your neighborhood association. Learn about Firewise communities and take part in yours. If you’re not in one, help start one. Volunteer to remove Scotch Broom.
And, yes, if you see a property that’s a danger, report it. Get the county involved, and let’s make our community fire safe — one property at a time.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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