Managing winter storm impacts for wildfire resilience in Nevada County

Submitted to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. — In the immediate aftermath of the severe winter weather of early 2023, the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services (OES) launched the Winter Storm Hazardous Vegetation Cleanup Project.

This program, which began earlier this year and is still underway, was designed to ensure that 100 miles of County Roads were cleared of storm debris, highly impacted communities were able to remove hazards from private roads, and residents were offered opportunities to dispose of green waste. Staff worked closely with Firewise Communities to leverage local knowledge and identify priority relief needed at the community level.

In March, as feet of snow accumulated throughout the region, trees unable to with stand the weight of the snow fell in to powerlines, on to roadways, and across properties. Not only did this result in an immediate challenge as much of Nevada County was without power, it created an extensive mess on public and private property that would become a fire hazard in the warmer months.

Understanding the fire risk this material would pose in the summer, OES and CALFIRE quickly got to work. Together, they identified ways to address hazardous storm debris along critical public evacuation routes and in Firewise Communities faced with the highest volume of accumulated vegetation.

“CAL FIRE and Nevada County have a strong relationship and our continued commitment to fire protection and fire prevention in Nevada County will remain paramount. CAL FIRE will continue to focus on working with the County and nonprofits to afford access to fire prevention grant opportunities while committing our emergency response resources year-round to the protection of life and property through the heat of summer and the most severe impacts from winter storms. The efforts in reducing fuels and clearing the damage from the past two winter storm events has a direct impact to our ability to safely and effectively prevent and suppress wildfires through the upcoming fire seasons. These efforts are very important and CAL FIRE is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with all our allied public safety agencies in these efforts,”says CAL FIRE Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit Chief Estes.

This summer, OES partnered with Firewise Communities to stage large roll-off dumpsters which were used by property owners to dispose of greenwaste. At the program’s close, funding from County of Nevada and CALFIRE will have removed debris from nearly 100 miles of county-maintained roadways, positioned 54 green waste bins in 25 locations, and supported eight highly impacted communities in addressing wildfire mitigation concerns. By removing flammable vegetation, this program improves defensible space, fire fighter ingress, and resident egress in the event of a wildfire.

Wildfire preparedness is truly a year-round effort and the past two heavy winters have highlighted this fact.

“With the lifting of the CALFIRE residential burn ban, November rains, and the impending holiday season we are reminded that winter is just around the corner. Now is a perfect time to tackle remaining burn piles and to proactively prepare for potential severe winter weather. OES encourages everyone to visit for tips to get ahead of extreme weather this winter,” says CraigGriesbach, Director of Emergency Services for the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services.

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