$100K grant funds more work on shaded fuel break

City signs new agreement with U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Fire Department received another grant to do further work on the shaded fuel break, and it also renewed the federal agreement that makes doing that kind of work possible.

The Proposition 84 grant jointly applied for by Auburn and the California Conservation Corps had been accepted last week, injecting another $100,000 or so into the CCC’s continued work on reducing fuels in the Auburn area.

And on Monday, the City Council approved a new memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, allowing the city’s fire department to perform fuel reduction work and fire suppression on the federally owned lands for another five years.

“With the MOU, I can virtually treat those adjoining public lands the same as I treat my lands within the City of Auburn, where we can go out and submit grant applications and do fuel projects,” Auburn Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi said. “To my knowledge, it is unheard of that a federal agency would work so closely with a local agency in that capacity.”

The agreement remains the same as the initial one reached in 2010, D’Ambrogi said.

The latest grant will cover the CCC’s work to reduce fuels on about a 10-acre stretch off Maidu Drive along the old dam construction road below the Riverview properties, he said.

A shaded fuel break is designed to not only mitigate the progress and intensity of a potential fire, but also to allow firefighters to battle a blaze more effectively. It involves removing “ladder” fuels such as brush, grass and limbs between the ground and the tree tops, D’Ambrogi said.

The CCC is a state agency that employs people ages 18-25 and trains them for various careers while concurrently working to improve the environment. It has worked on various projects with Auburn for the 100-plus-acre American River Canyon Shaded Fuel Break.

The organization wrapped its work on the fuel break from Maidu Drive south to Blackstone Court about two weeks ago – another $100,000 grant project covering eight to 10 acres – and will essentially move on up the road from there, D’Ambrogi said.

Crews also recently stopped ground work on a 60-acre project after exhausting $268,000 in funds, including a $146,000 Sierra Nevada Conservancy grant. While evaluation processes are still taking place, D’Ambrogi said he thinks they came close to reaching their acreage goal for land between Robie Point and Portland Avenue.

“Overall, we’ve made significant impact on the shaded fuel break project, especially in that area,” he said.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns the land that had been part of the long-dormant Auburn dam project, and as a water reclamation and recreation agency, it does not have the resources to handle their “vast majority of open wild land,” D’Ambrogi said.

“Credit to them, they identified that and they indentified collaborative ways that we can reduce the risk to the City of Auburn on the canyon rim,” he said.

The agreement is a “win-win” scenario, said Pete Lucero, bureau public affairs officer.

“For us, of course we have a limited amount of staff, and that’s not really what we do,” Lucero said. “So the fact that the city is willing to do that work under this agreement is a bonus for everybody, particularly residents of that area.”

And the residents have gotten involved with fuel reduction on the lands as well through community projects such as the Greater Auburn Fire Safe Council’s two Project Canyon Safe events featuring hundreds of volunteers.

“Three years ago after the big 49 Fire which destroyed 63 homes, the Auburn community really responded to the fire threat that we face,” said Mayor Kevin Hanley, chairman of the Greater Auburn Fire Safe Council. “And we’ve had pretty amazing success in the past three years.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews