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Board renews contract with fire prevention specialist

  The Plumas County Board of Supervisors renewed its contract with Sue McCourt, the county’s fire prevention specialist.

  The board approved a one-year contract extension during its Feb. 19 meeting, after McCourt presented a brief update on her work.

  The position is paid for by Title III funds.

  “I think we have accomplished a lot,” said Jerry Sipe, the county’s office of emergency services director.

  Sipe said that considerable progress has been made to support and establish firewise communities, assist local fire districts and help reduce the number of parcels outside existing fire protection districts.

  Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, who represents the Almanor Basin, complimented McCourt and Sipe, noting that their efforts “pulled all of my fire chiefs together.”

  “I wish they could do that for me,” Supervisor Terry Swofford said. He represents Portola and the Sierra Valley.

  McCourt and Sipe discussed some of the projects they are working on, including close-of-escrow notifications.

  People assume that they are in a fire district, or, that because they pay property taxes, they are entitled to fire protection, but that’s not always the case.

  The pair hoped that by mandating such information be shared at the close of escrow, property owners would be fully aware of their circumstance.

  “There was some strong opposition,” Sipe said after meeting with local Realtors.

  He said that sellers must already disclose all of the facts that they know about a property, including fire protection status, and a close-of-escrow notice would be redundant, as well as occurring too late in the process.

  Instead, McCourt and Sipe are going to focus on “ramping up education to Realtors” so that they will know that they are required to disclose that information.

  “That’s a great way to go,” said Supervisor Jon Kennedy.

  According to statistics provided by the county’s building and planning departments, about 22 percent of the private acreage in the county is outside of a fire district, though much of the land is not inhabited. About 5 percent of the county residents live outside of a fire district.

  A volunteer group has been coordinating a parcel-by-parcel review of all the properties that are outside of a fire district so that residents and fire chiefs can begin annexation discussions.

  The town of La Porte is proceeding with the annexation process, which can be costly, but residents are motivated by the ability to get homeowners insurance.

  Sheriff Greg Hagwood said that he needs to be told about any changes so that maps can updated.

  “You can do all the great work of redistricting, but when that 911 call comes in — if the map and database doesn’t match the redistricting — it all falls apart,” Hagwood said. “We need to come up with the funding to get the database accurate.”

  Sipe said that the sheriff is working on a pilot study to assess the cost.

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