County’s fire plan faces obstacles
February 13, 2008
Concerns about cost, evacuations, clarity and property rights will ensure the Nevada County fire plan, started in September 2003, is not expected to be implemented soon.
The doubts were voiced Tuesday at the county Board of Supervisors meeting.
The plan was begun to protect the county from catastrophic blazes such as the 49er Fire of 1988, which burned thousands of acres from the San Juan Ridge to Penn Valley. Supervisors said they would take the public’s comments under consideration but did not move to accept the plan Tuesday. Their annual goals state they want to implement the plan sometime this year.
County fire plan leader Kathleen Edwards was lauded for putting up with myriad groups and their opinions to get the plan finalized, but those in attendance made it clear approval won’t come soon.
The newest version of the plan includes 56 recommendations, and a majority of them have costs, County Community Development Agency Director Steve DeCamp said. “There has been no analysis on how to meet those costs,” he added.
Many were happy the plan continues to require a 100-foot defensible space area around rural homes, but excludes an earlier proposal that called for those with 10 acres to clear their land, though to a less-stringent level.
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Others said the newest version still doesn’t spell out what would be required and what would be recommended for clearing, and they asked that the final version do so.
Although the plan has loose provisions for evacuation along the best routes available at the time, guided by media alerts, some people said that wasn’t enough.
“I recommend strong evacuation plans,” said Vern Gross, who lives just outside of Grass Valley.
The Lake Vera area between Nevada City and the South Yuba River came up with its own fire plan, largely because neighbors wanted to clarify how they would evacuate, resident Nancy Weber said. But she fears what could happen if fleeing residents had to use the winding Lake Vera-Purdon Road, she said.
Crawford Bost, of the same area, said creating fire-safe areas for residents is important. He said the states of Idaho and Montana already have such zones, supplied with water and other provisions so people can move to them quickly during blazes.
Language in the plan needs to be tightened up to preserve property rights, said Lauren Lund of the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners. That concern was echoed by Robert Ingram, of Citizens for Property Rights of Nevada County, who said the plan needs to be “simple, flexible, doable and fundable.”
The plan needs to address specific needs of each area in the county because vegetation and fire danger vary, Jim Hurley said.
“It should reflect the actual conditions on the ground,” Hurley said.
Nevada County Contractors Association leader Barbara Bashall said the plan is needed, but wanted emphasis shifted from “ignition-resistant building restrictions,” to creating defensible space.
Despite those concerns, county resident Fred Buhler asked the board to not let the plan fall into “analysis paralysis.”
“It’s not a question of if we’ll have another major wildfire,” Buhler said, “but when.”