Our View: Ready Nevada County?
For decades, the mantra has been “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
That’s certainly still true, but there is a whole lot of work underway toward a shift in the paradigm, and you will soon be hearing a whole lot about it.
Yes, each of us still must own responsibility in being “fire safe,” but it will take all of us — a community-wide effort of outreach and cooperation — to help Nevada County get ready for wildfire that will threaten us.
It’s not a matter of if wildfire will strike, but when.
Will we be ready, Nevada County?
Over the past several months, in the wake of the deadly devastation of the Camp Fire in Paradise, a whole lot of people have been hard at work back home to ready Nevada County for the flames we know will one day come.
Considering this column space often criticizes government, it’s refreshing to offer a round of applause for the proactive approach our leaders are taking with the “Ready Nevada County” fire prevention and preparation campaign.
Nevada County officials are organizing outside the silos of government, and across all agencies serving county communities at the local, state and federal levels to keep us fire safe. Cal Fire, Nevada County Consolidated, Grass Valley and Nevada City and all area fire departments, the Office of Emergency Services, the Fire Safe Council, the Resource Conservation District, the Forest Service, PG&E, local elected officials and government leaders have all been offered a seat at the table to bring their expertise as stakeholders to collaborate on this critical issue.
They are developing defensible space projects to reduce fuel loads, planning partnerships for free green waste disposal, organizing evacuation routes, applying for grant funding, hosting educational events and collaborating with the media to amplify what’s been learned loud and clear.
One of the first opportunities to get up to speed on this effort is a Feb. 25 discussion “Get Firewise: Organize!” at the Madelyn Helling Library, where attendees can learn in this first in a monthly speaker series how to prepare their homes for wildfire, and how they can help their neighbors do the same (See story on page A3). Plans are also in the works for an early March screening of “Wilder Than Wild: Fire, Forests and the Future,” a film that documents the 2013 Rim Fire and the 2017 Wine Country wildfires, followed by a panel discussion.
Meanwhile, there are many ways for you to get ready for fire season. And, never mind all this rain and snow soaking our trees and hillsides, now’s the time. The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County has long been the leader of this cause in our community. Its http://www.areyoufiresafe.com website offers a wealth of locally focused information, from its Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Guide to opportunities to get involved with the nonprofit’s efforts toward a fire-safe community.
Since its start in 1998, the Fire Safe Council’s efforts have led to the certification of 22 Firewise Communities in Nevada County, the second-highest number in the state. Through funding from the county, that number could soon climb to nearly 40, the most in California, as the Fire Safe Council works to certify others that have been working toward certification.
The Coalition of Firewise Communities, an all-volunteer association that’s less than two years old, is composed of representatives from each of the Firewise Communities that have been working hard in their neighborhoods to promote safe practices in a dangerous wildfire environment. As part of a well-respected national movement, the Firewise Communities are trained and supported by the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County.
California law requires homeowners to clear brush or vegetation within 100 feet of a home to create defensible space. The kind of work necessary to create that space requires strong backs and substantial dollars. Perhaps those with the expertise, who actually do the trimming, tree falling, bucking up, chipping and shredding, logging — even gardening and landscaping — could lend a hand or train others how to do so as part of this community-wide effort?
As you work to make your own home more fire safe, talk with your neighbors to see what help they might need, to share plans for prevention, and evacuation, when wildfire comes.
Because while “only you can prevent forest fires” through action now, ahead of fire season, we do know it’s coming. And when it does, it will take neighbors being neighborly and an engaged community collaboration to make the most of this massive effort already underway.
So how about it? Are you ready Nevada County?
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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