City debates becoming fire wise community

Becoming a “Firewise Community” was on the agenda for the Portola city council at its meeting Wednesday, May 24.

All council members attended the meeting, with Mayor John Larrieu taking up his office after an extended absence due to health problems.  Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton chaired the meeting, as Larrieu explained that he wanted to attend, but was still convalescing.

Public comment opened with local Larry Douglas, who spoke of his concerns regarding the proposed Measure B fire tax, and how it would potentially affect those on fixed and low incomes.

Firewise Communities

Sue McCourt, fire prevention specialist, and Mike Callahan, Plumas County Fire Safe Council chair, gave a presentation to the council on becoming a Firewise Community at the request of council member Phil Oels.

“There are eight Firewise Communities thus far in Plumas County,” McCourt stated. Firewise is a community-based program that brings communities together to focus on preparing for the fire season, with a focus on fuel reduction and defensible space around homes and businesses.

“There is a bit of a process to getting set up as a Firewise Community, but we are here to help with every phase of working through the assessments,” McCourt said.

The program would require a $4,000 investment, but McCourt encouraged council members not to be discouraged at the amount.

“The program requires this amount be invested to show community involvement, and it works out to $2 per capita at the dollar level. However, any hours spent actually working — mitigating threats, educating the public at a festival, clearing weeds — all of those hours work out to an average of $25 per hour, per person investment.

“So if you have a group of 30 people clearing defensible space for instance, each individual would be able to log those hours and then all hours logged can then be added up as an in-kind investment and turned in to the Firewise committee. You’d be amazed how quickly those hours add up to meet the $4,000 goal.”

One priority noted was the density of housing in Portola, as the risk of fire spreading is more intense with homes so close together.

“This is where you find these concerns and turn them into things that a community action group can focus on to lessen potential fire damage,” Callahan added.

McCourt also pointed out that USAA insurance gives homeowner discounts for designated Firewise Communities, which may be another incentive to get involved with the national program.

“We want to get folks prepared for fire season, with emergency plans in place to address the pre-event and post-fire situation. Part of the goal is to ensure that the community wouldn’t just stop running if hit by fire. We want to help everyone prepare and perhaps work into becoming a ‘Fire Adapted Community,’” Callahan said. A Fire Adapted community focuses on protecting assets during a fire event and getting back on track afterwards as quickly as possible.

Oels noted that now is a good time to get started with fire preparation, as the fire season is expected to be volatile with the heavy precipitation encouraging fine fuel growth in the area.

After a bit more discussion, the council elected to become the standing Firewise Committee, with council members Oels and council member Bill Powers elected as the ad-hoc subcommittee.

Lost and Found race

The Lost and Found Gravel Grinder race is coming on the weekend of June 2 through 4, with race day scheduled on June 3 and festivities surrounding the event being held throughout the weekend at the Portola City Park.

“Things are moving right along,” said Oels. “We’ve just about got everything in place on our end of things, and it looks like it’s going to be a great event for the community to enjoy.” The weekend will feature music on Saturday night, open pool availability, free rides at Western Pacific Railroad museum, pump track riding in the Portola City Park and more.

Morton and Larrieu plan on assisting at the Clover Valley aid station this year, with a wide array of donated snacks and beverages on hand for the 1,000 riders that will be participating in the event.

Gold Mountain contract

Patricia Ryan and Rich McLaughlin of Gold Mountain Community Service District  spoke about renewing Gold Mountain’s contract for fire suppression services from the city, and about the great working relationship that GMCSD has had with the city. They both said that they look forward to that relationship going into the future.

The council unanimously approved the renewal of the GMCSD contract for the next year.

Designation of representatives

The council designated representatives for the purpose of labor negotiations with the city manager, and after little discussion, all voted to appoint Oels and Powers to the position.

Cannabis regulation

After the agenda was printed, an urgency item came to the attention of the council, regarding the proposed Trailer Bill implementing Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

The Trailer Bill purports to reconcile Prop. 64 with the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which the League of California Cities supported, along with the California Police Chiefs Association.

What does this mean for cities such as Portola? The proposal is worded in such a way that infers deletion of the MCRSA from the Trailer Bill in entirety, with a number of local controls, public health and public safety provisions currently contained in the MCRSA. This means ultimately less, if any, local control over the regulation of cannabis.

The council agreed that while they are not ready to take any sort of official stance on the topic of cannabis in the community, they would vastly prefer to have local control over the regulations and restrictions of cannabis in the future. That being stated, the council voted all in favor of opposing the Trailer Bill.

Sheriff contract

City Manager Robert Meacher spoke about the contract with the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department, stating that the contract for services for the city has been signed and renewed, after a face-to-face meeting with Sheriff Hagwood, Supervisor Sanchez and City Attorney Steve Gross.

Regularly held meetings of the Portola City Council occur on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m., and community attendance and interaction is encouraged by city staff. Copies of documents mentioned are available for public viewing at City Hall upon request. For more information, contact City Hall at 832-6803 or visit cityofportola.com.

2 thoughts on “City debates becoming fire wise community

  • June 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm
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    Portola/Feather reporter have some misconceptions about the Plumas Fire Safe Council.

    They don’t have any influence over the CalFire “inspection” process,
    which is perfunctory at best.
    CalFire can sanction homeowners for ignoring inspections.
    Yet the inspections don’t address serious fire hazards, side/rear yards,
    nor deficient Code enforcement. Nearby vacant land and public entity-owned lands
    aren’t inspected.
    This is particularly true in the County areas served by the city.

    One would note that contracting to Gold Mountain stretches resources thin,
    and areas North of 70 are especially over-loaded with dead fuels and human debris.
    a realistic, community-wide (not just City, and Volunteer F.D.) is lacking;
    this needs to be addressed by the distant and aloof FireSafeCouncil.

    • June 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm
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      [email protected]#k- what’s your point? We live in a fire prone area. We live in a country that prints money to pay the bills. The Fire Safe Council just tries to get grant money from the government’s credit card so they can keep their pay. You sound like a statist bureaucrat who is ok with code inspectors and ticket books on private property. Maybe move back to the city captain.

      Why has California allowed people to buy real estate in fire prone areas without making them clear property as a prerequisite. Instead it utilizes CalFire, Firesafe Council and Firewise Community personnel, paid by PC, to push and push and guilt people to cut their trees down. They do this after the fact, after people buy a house in a wooded area. But now it’s all about safety? Leave us alone! This is our private property!!

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