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Last week’s fire serves as a reminder

This blight has got to go

When firefighters from across the county arrived in East Quincy last week to fight a fire, they thought they were saving a home. They assumed the explosions were from ammunition bursting within a house. The smoke was so thick and so black, it was hard to distinguish the structure in the midst of it all.

When the smoke cleared, firefighters discovered a wasteland of burned out vehicles and other debris, not the house that they were expecting. Unfortunately, the fire did spread to a neighboring home, severely damaging it. It was hot and windy at the time of the fire and embers traveled into an adjacent meadow. Thankfully, Plumas National Forest crews arrived to assist, and put out more than 20 spot fires while individual fire departments focused on the structures.

The fire was a great example of the spirit of cooperation that exists in the county as resources from throughout Plumas converged in East Quincy to assist in what could have escalated into a disaster. Those responding were fire departments from Beckwourth, Eastern Plumas, Graeagle, Long Valley, Indian Valley, Meadow Valley, and of course, Quincy. However, what wasn’t so great, was the blight at the bottom of it all.

Just about a year ago we dedicated this space to the blight problem that exists in this county. A reader urged us to take a drive down a particular lane in Quincy and look, really look, at what she saw every day on her drive to and from her home. It was appalling. There were yards that could be confused with the East Quincy transfer site. There were front and side yards filled with garbage bags, debris, car parts, entire vehicles in various states of disrepair, old household appliances, broken items, aged toys and the list goes on. In the aftermath of that editorial, the situation improved on that particular lane. But the situation is not unique to this street or to Quincy.

We understand the challenges of maintaining our properties — it can be physically impossible for some and cost prohibitive to hire help. Then there are those who may be able-bodied, but do not have the means to pay for disposal. But what does that mean for people, who, like our reader, work hard to maintain their properties? Also, as this week’s fire highlighted, it’s not just about appearance, it’s a matter of public safety.

A couple of years ago, the city of Portola’s leadership made a list of the most blighted properties within the city limits and targeted them. It was a lengthy process, which involved legal notices and continuous effort, but one by one, they addressed those properties. At one residence, where the property owners did not have the ability — physically or financially to resolve the issue — Councilman Phil Oels organized a work crew, and Intermountain Disposal assisted with the associated disposal and costs.

Plumas County has one code enforcement officer to cover the entire county and clearly the problem is far greater than one individual could possibly handle. It’s going to take a concerted effort on all of our parts to do what we can.

First there needs to be a sense of personal responsibility for our properties. If we need financial help, perhaps the county could step in and work with our local solid waste contractors to offer free dump days at the transfer sites, similar to the household hazardous waste or tire disposal days that are now offered periodically. Maybe there are high school or college sports teams or other volunteer groups that could lend a hand for those who can’t physically tackle the work.

Last week’s fire was a wakeup call that we all need to heed.

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