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Another View

Revamp vegetation ordinance to make us fire ‘safer’

By: Jennifer Montgomery
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As I write this, there are two significant fires threatening the 5th District in Placer County.

The first is the “North Fire” up on the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River near Emigrant Gap, which is endangering the Interstate Highway, the Union Pacific Railroad and the high-pressure pipeline which runs across the Sierra Nevada. This of course is in addition to our imperiled forests, watersheds, homes and recreational facilities.

The second is the “Sliger Fire” on the Middle Fork of the American River. Currently the fire remains in El Dorado County, but only a wind shift would be necessary to send it into Placer County near Todd Valley and Foresthill. The fire is in the Auburn State Recreation Area — and like the “North Fire,” federal, state and local fire agencies have combined efforts to fight the fire — to protect lives and property and our natural assets in the wild land.

We don’t know yet how these fires started, but it is likely they were human caused — as most fires are. We do know that our emergency personnel and resources are stretched thin and that it would not take much to knock down the institutional structure of fire response in Placer County and at your local fire district.

We need to do a better job of managing not just our forests, but also our own properties and communities for greater fire safety. We need to be the front line of support for our own local, state and federal fire responders — they are literally putting their lives on the line for us, it’s time we did our part. 

Although these particular fires did not start in developed areas, I will shortly be asking my fellow supervisors to amend our Hazardous Vegetation Abatement Ordinance. Currently it only addresses overgrown, undeveloped lots adjacent to developed lots. I’ll be asking that the ordinance be re-written to include ALL parcels in unincorporated Placer County — developed as well as undeveloped lots. And I’ll be asking for more “teeth” in the ordinance, as well as larger fines for property owners who do not take the appropriate corrective defensible space actions. 

Naturally, we’ll need to address those folks on limited incomes, who are disabled, elderly, or have other overriding considerations that preclude them from doing the work themselves, or being able to pay others to do so. It is in all our best interests to manage our homes, neighborhoods, landscapes and wild lands for better fire protection. 

Nothing will make us fire “safe” — but it is far past time to make us all fire “safer.”  I will need help to get these changes passed by the Board of Supervisors — there will certainly be pushback from landowners who are unconcerned for your safety or their own. It is past time to take action — I ask you to be part of the solution.

Jennifer Montgomery is the Placer County supervisor for District 5.