My Turn: Wildfire – The risk and responsibility | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Wildfire – The risk and responsibility

Jennifer Montgomery

As my husband spends two weeks on the fire line, I worry nonstop. While fire in the wildland-urban intermix is a public safety problem, “government” can’t solve the entire problem.

As wildfire devastates our region it is time to move decisively toward a more fire-safe future. We must work together to reduce catastrophic wildfire danger.

If I am elected supervisor for Placer County District 5, I will work with all stakeholders to aggressively manage our private and public lands for reduced fire danger. Here are some ways we can make our communities more fire safe.

We property owners need to step up and do the hard work. By law we must clear a 100-foot zone around our homes. The first 30 feet, the “Lean, Clean and Green Zone,” must be clear of leaf litter, pine needles and brush that will carry fire into the canopy. In addition, we must clear an additional 70 feet of brush and limb trees up at least six feet above ground. CalFire provides guidelines at http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/fire_prevention.php

Taking proactive action now can greatly reduce your personal fire risk. Assess your yard. Is there firewood, construction materials or slash lying around? If yes, move the firewood and construction materials far away from buildings and dispose of the brush.

Backyard burning is a safe and highly effective way to dispose of yard waste ” just be sure you have a burn permit, that it’s a burn day and check with your local fire department first. Placer County offers a number of options including the Green Box program (Dumpsters are placed in neighborhoods for green waste) as well as the chipper program, which chips your yard waste in place. Most local fire districts will come to your home by appointment to give you suggestions on improving defensible space.

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We need to help those physically or financially unable to do the work. We all value strong communities ” what better way to protect your own property than to make your neighbor’s home fire safe?

On public lands we need to increase access and funding to restore forest health through proven forest management practices. We must understand that we may need to temporarily lift the more stringent environmental restrictions in riparian (and other) areas to achieve our goals.

This is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card allowing wholesale logging ” it’s addressing the grasses, brush and dead trees that carry fire up into the crown, so our focus must be on removal of understory. We need more controlled burns, brush clearing, dense stand thinning, shaded fuel and fire breaks and more personnel.

Insurance companies must become part of the solution. Reduced rates should be offered for proper clearances, fire-resistant building materials and plants, and other proven fire-reduction strategies.

On the land-use front, we must discontinue haphazardly approving new subdivisions in forested areas vulnerable to wildfire and therefore more difficult and dangerous to defend.

Hard work and personal responsibility will reclaim our healthy forests; not finger pointing. The time for hard work is now.