Roughly 750 of the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone’s 1,200 acres have been abated of nuisance wildfire prone fuels, according to Nevada County Fire Safe Council Project Manager Matt Frink.
On Thursday, a handful of the Fire Safe Council’s board members got to see firsthand how that work is progressing as brush clearers worked the property of Curtis and Marta Price, off Squirrel Creek Road, where the northern end of the shaded fuel break extends.
The Prices were quick to sign on to have their property abated when they found out about the defense zone project.
“This looks healthier,” Marta Price said as she and her husband looked out at the brush crew working the Fire Safe Council’s tracked masticator on their property.
“We masticated 10 years ago when we bought this property. We hadn’t been able to keep up totally, it’s hard,” Curtis Price said. “This project is great.”
The Fire Safe Council has recognized the need for brush clearing crews on properties outside of the Ponderosa Zone, where owners haven’t been able to keep up with fire fuels reduction, and is looking to launch a reduced cost defensible space clearing program.
“We’ll be able to lend (brush clearing crews) out to the community for reduced cost defensible space clearing,” Fire Safe Council Executive Director Jamie Jones said.
Phase Two of the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone is ready to begin work, while the Lodestar and Woodpecker Ravine areas have also been recognized for future fuel breaks.
“All three have been applied for,” Jones said. “Hopefully with the recent Jones incident, the county can get the federal recognition to get more money to fund fuel breaks.”
Phase Two of the Ponderosa break would extend toward Rough and Ready Highway and would reduce fire fuels on a large parcel of Bureau of Land Management land that has been of concern for a while.
The Lodestar fuel break would extend between Alta Sierra and Lake of the Pines and help to protect those communities. The Woodpecker Ravine fuel break would protect the Highway 174 corridor and Alta Sierra.
While the majority of property owners within the footprint of the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone have agreed to have the free fire fuel work done on their properties, a handful of parcels within the project area, including some of those bordering Highway 20, have refused to participate.
“A handful of properties said ‘no’ to begin with,” Jones said. “The ones that we haven’t heard back from are the unimproved or unoccupied parcels. Some bordering Highway 20 will never jump on board.”
The Fire Safe Council has reached out to the owners of cannabis grow parcels within the zone, and assure them that it is not their duty nor will they be reported to the county for being out of compliance.
“It’s not our duty to report it,” Jones said.
“Those that are growing are enthusiastic once they find out what we do,” Frink said. “Pretty excited to get some free work done.”
The Fire Safe Council’s $87,000 remote controlled masticator has been busy working non-stop since being recently purchased, turning forest trees and chaparral into wood chips.
“We’re not removing the fuels, we’re changing it. We’re moving it to the ground.” Nevada County Fire Safe Council Director Donn Thane said.
Thane has been receiving complaints that the brush clearing efforts are only creating excess wood chips that could still be fuel for wildfires.
“Would reduce 30- to 50-foot flame length to the ground in small little wood chips. If it does burn through here, you might get a two- to three-foot flame height,” Thane said.
“Then you can bring an engine or a hand crew in here and stop the fire with smaller flame length.”
To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email [email protected] or call 530-477-4230.