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During the Minerva Fire in Quincy in August 2017, the Minerva Incident Management Team and the Plumas County Office of Emergency Services took advantage of a unique opportunity to do a “Rapid Assessment” of a neighborhood in the process of becoming a Firewise site. While on standby during the fire, OES Strike Team 3800A from Redding, along with CalFire and Quincy Fire, performed a drive through of the Galeppi subdivision with a member of the Firewise group in the community. It was extremely timely and informative to have a strike team of five engines “size up” structure protection, available resources, and ingress/egress issues to provide input to the overall Firewise Community Assessment. Photos submitted

Three more communities become ‘Firewise’

Nick Bunch, right, fuels officer on the Mt. Hough Ranger District, discusses tips and techniques to make your home more survivable in the event of a wildfire with one of the local residents in the community.

With fires raging throughout the state, it’s not surprising that more communities are focused on becoming fire safe.

It was announced this week that three more Plumas County communities have joined the ranks of Firewise: the city of Portola, Galeppi Ranch in Quincy and Lake Almanor Pines at Lake Almanor.

Firewise USA is a national program that instructs people on how to live with the threat of wildfire, and encourages neighbors to work together and take action to reduce their wildfire risk.

Nationwide there are 1,538 recognized Firewise communities.

California is ranked third in the nation with 153 sites and Plumas County has a dozen Firewise communities.

“With our population of 18,000, I am very proud of our 12 Firewise communities here in our county,” said Sue McCourt, the Plumas County fire prevention specialist.

McCourt said it takes a committed group of residents in each community to take the steps required to be designated Firewise.

“These folks truly care about being prepared in the event of a fire,” she said.

She explained that they have learned how homes can be vulnerable to wildfire; how to assess wildfire risks to their community by working with wildfire specialists from the local, state and federal agencies; and then developed a plan to minimize those risks.

“They are working on their own individual properties and also sharing their knowledge with neighbors to complete wildfire risk reduction projects that will benefit their communities as a whole,” McCourt said.

For more information about becoming a Firewise community, visit the Plumas County Fire Safe Council at plumasfiresafe.org. or call 283-3739.

Portola’s effort

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sue McCourt,” said Portola City Councilman Phil Oels. “She was a great mentor.”

Oels said he began working on the designation last February, but it was something that he wanted for his community for a long time.

Oels said he looked for grants to help fund the process and worked with Shane Vargas of CalFire to apply for a California Climate Investment grant. Oels credited Hannah Hepner, the director of the Plumas County Fire Safe Council, for her assistance with the documents.

After reviewing risk factors, the effort began by thinning a 10-acre parcel between the city park and the hospital.

Another 152 acres have also been earmarked for treatments. “The underlying thought is to build a fire line around the community,” Oels said.

He said it was truly a community effort to treat the acreage, including debris removal, which Intermountain Disposal accommodated.

Galeppi Ranch

Homeowner Ryan Tompkins had been working to make his home safer from the threat of fire, when he realized that many of his neighbors were doing the same. “We’re all thinking of this, so why don’t we work as a community,” Tompkins said of the decision to pursue a Firewise designation. He added, “We just see the reality … with what’s happened in Redding, Mendocino and Lake County. It’s not if we’re going to burn, it’s when.”

Tompkins said the more that he does to make his home fire resilient, the more he sees that he can do. He began with thinning trees and brush, then saw the need to remove more weeds and noticed the leaves around the propane tank, and now it’s the grates on attic vents.

He also credits Sue McCourt for her help in the process and all of the information that she provides.

Describing it as “contagious education,” he said there’s always more to learn. “It’s completely ongoing work,” he said.

Lake Almanor Pines

The Almanor Pines community consists of 62 acres on the Lake Almanor Peninsula that is home to 120 residences with most belonging to weekenders and retirees.

The Pines is adjacent to another Firewise community, the Lake Almanor Country Club, and its residents have helped their neighbors in the process.

Residents J. Lundquist and Mike Floyd began working on the project last year. As year-round residents they wanted to ensure that their homes were as safe as possible.

“I have learned so much through this process,” said Lundquist, “and there are certainly things that I would do differently if I were building my house today.”

For instance? “I would have reconsidered the siding,” he said, noting that his home has 4-inch grooves, and he would add soffits to his eaves. “Embers are the real threat,” he said. And currently both his siding and the eaves present opportunities for a flying ember to ignite.

He has been sharing his information with his neighbors, and he and Floyd have been helping them address issues on their properties, including clearing away woody debris from their yards.

Lundquist said that he knows there is only so much that can be done when a fire approaches, but he is doing what he can to protect his home and his neighborhood.

Plumas County Firewise Communities

Graeagle Fire Protection District, Graeagle (2010)

West Almanor Community Club, Lake Almanor West (2010)

Gold Mountain, Clio (2013)

Lake Almanor Country Club, Lake Almanor (2014)

Greenhorn Creek CSD, near Quincy (2015)

Grizzly Ranch Association, near Portola (2016)

Mohawk Vista, near Blairsden (2016)

Plumas Eureka Community Services District, Blairsden (2016)

Sloat, Cromberg, and Camp Layman (2017)

Lake Almanor Pines, Lake Almanor (2018)

Galeppi Ranch, Quincy (2018)

City of Portola (2018)

Additional communities in process:

Chester

Smith Creek Ranch, Graeagle

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