Budget woes limit fire mitigation resources | SierraSun.com

Budget woes limit fire mitigation resources

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunJavier Lopez of the Tahoe Donner street chipper crew works in Tahoe Donner Tuesday afternoon. Chipping is provided for homeowner in Tahoe Donner and paid for by homeowner's dues.

While demand for defensible space has increased dramatically the last few years, the California budget impasse has robbed money from some projects in the Truckee Tahoe area.

Both federal and state funding are no longer finding their way to the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County for wood-chipping programs, forcing the nonprofit service to end stop Sept. 5. Other fire districts in the area have had to look elsewhere for funding to keep their programs going.

“This is a bad time, we’ve got brush stacked up and people waiting for service,” said Joanne Drummond, executive director of the fire safe council.

Between the record-length state budget impasse and a conflict at the federal level over the extension of other funding sources that usually reimburse the group, Drummond said the fire safe council has depleted its own reserves. The fire safe council is awaiting reimbursement for about $200,000, she said.

This means the Tahoe Donner Association’s aggresive defensible space program didn’t get the backup they were hoping for, said Ben Gwerder, assistant forester for the homeowner’s association.

“We doubled our capacity and are still falling behind,” Gwerder said. “That wasn’t enough, we’ve more like tripled to quadrupaled demand from previous years.”

Gwerder said the association had hoped a Fire Safe Council of Nevada County crew could help out, but the funding pinch precluded that.

Stewart McMorrow, forester for North Tahoe Fire, said their chipping hasn’t been affected by the state budget impasse specifically, but grants from the state have come in smaller than previous years.

“It costs us $100,000 a year to run chipping, so it’s forced us to find other sources of funding,” McMorrow said.

North Tahoe Fire has stopped taking requests for chipping because they’ve already got enough work to take them through Nov. 1, McMorrow said.

But the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County is optimistic the problem will be resolved sooner rather than later.

“We feel like it’s a relatively short-term issue,” Drummond said. “In the next two to four weeks we hope to be back up and running.”

Other services funded by the fire safe council locally haven’t been affected, like green waste pickups in Glenshire, at the rodeo grounds, and in Soda Springs, Drummond said.

For more information on defensible space contact:

North Tahoe Fire Protection District: 546-4347

Truckee Fire Protection District: 582-7850

Northstar Fire Department: 562-1212

Squaw Valley Fire Department: 583-6111

Meeks Bay Fire Protection District: 525-7548

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