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Revised fire protection maps could help generate more projects

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer
10/27/2010

Plumas Corporation Executive Director John Sheehan told the Board of Supervisors, at a recent meeting, that improvements to the county’s and Plumas National Forest’s wildland urban interface (WUI) maps could generate $2.7 million in economic activity over the next two years.

Sheehan explained that the new maps would allow current fuels reduction fire prevention projects to grow by 2,700 acres on the Plumas National Forest.

He said that an acre of that type of work led to around $1,000 in economic activity on average.

Plumas County Fire Safe Council Coordinator Jerry Hurley told the board the maps were part of the county’s community wildfire protection plan, which is needed to get certain types of forest fire prevention grants and Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funding.

Hurley explained that the original county WUI map had 28 communities at risk identified, with 60 recognized now.

Communities at risk are those connected to public forest lands, meaning they are at risk of having forest fires spread to residential areas.

Hurley explained the wildland urban interface is the area around a community that can connect a forest fire to residential areas.

Grant sources like federal stimulus funding can be used for fuel reduction work in those areas to ensure that communities are protected.

The coordinator indicated that originally the map consisted of literally drawing 1.5-mile bubbles around all the communities in Plumas, as 1.5 miles is considered a general guide for the size of a WUI.

He said the biggest flaw with that strategy was that “the little individual circles really aren’t conducive to large scale planning.”

“It was like each community was standing by itself as an island,” he added, “we felt that wasn’t logical.”

He explained that the new plan analyzed the area around each community, drawing the WUI lines by taking into account, “terrain, the vegetation in some cases, roads, ridges, valleys, things that really effect how fire burns into a community and away from a community.”

Hurley characterized the change as “more of a landscape approach to fuels planning.”

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