Wednesday, September 29, 2004

LA Times on Nevada County fire plan

A big thanks to Yubanet for pointing to this Sept. 27 LA Times article on Nevada County's new Fire Plan,
Strict Fire Rules Are Fuel for Debate ("Rural county's proposed plan for brush removal is called a 'strategy for deforestation.'")
With authorities in scenic Gold Country warning that the stage is set for another catastrophic wildfire, Nevada County recently approved one of the most aggressive fire safety plans ever drafted.

The plan, which may not become law until next year, would require that brush be cleared at least 100 to 200 feet around structures - three times the minimum state requirements. It would also demand that property owners remove and thin 80% of the vegetation on lots up to 10 acres in size, potentially costing them thousands of dollars a year.

"Some people say we are killing the forest to save it," said Nevada County Supervisor Peter Van Zant. "But this is a very complex issue."
County authorities, seeking to avoid a repeat of the '49er fire of 1988, which destroyed 180 structures and charred 30,000 acres, concede that they approved a plan they have no funds to implement, let alone enforce.

Beyond that, critics say it unfairly burdens homeowners by failing to apply the same guidelines on brush clearance to lots larger than 10 acres and all but ignores the importance of fire-resistant building materials in a region that has roughly 3,000 pending applications for new home construction.
property insurance companies have begun warning homeowners that their policies may not be renewed because of their proximity to brush in a county where 80% of the roads are narrow dead-end country lanes far from the nearest fire station.
"What's screwing up this county are out-of-town retirees who want to bring their big-city ways with them," [Owl Tavern bartender Max Roberts] said. "Now I'm wondering whether to stick around. I don't like the direction we're heading."

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