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Neighbors fighting fire risk

Monteceilo residents promote safety, camaraderie
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Another group of residents is taking pride in keeping itself safe from fire. Fifteen residents of the Monteceilo neighborhood at Riverview Drive and Maidu Drive along the American River Canyon conducted their first Project Canyon Safe workday from 8 to 11:45 a.m. Saturday. The group cleared about 1 acre of the total 10-acre project, according to Rod Gross, Monteceilo coordinator. The group plans to meet every three to four weeks for the next year to continue to work on the shaded fuel break, said Dave Baker, Monteceilo resident. Baker said the Auburn Fire Department helped identify several trees that could be cut down in the area, leaving about a 40 percent treetop canopy. Baker said this allows firefighters to more effectively and safely move throughout the area should a fire occur. On Saturday residents cut down 35 trees, many of which were dead, and removed limbs lower than 10 feet on other trees, Baker said. In a July 9 letter to Monteceilo residents Gross gave the background of the shaded fuel break. “As you are probably aware, a shaded fuel break was created in 2002 at the boundary between Monteceilo and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation land (behind the homes that back up to the canyon on Vista del Lago),” Gross said in the letter. “However, the shaded fuel break has not been maintained in eight years (due to a lack of federal funds), and the fuel loading has slowly increased to the point where the shaded fuel break is no longer effective in many spots.” A recent agreement with the Auburn Fire Department and the Bureau of Reclamation allows community members to go onto federal lands to maintain shaded fuel breaks, according to Councilman Kevin Hanley. The Monteceilo project follows in the footsteps of the first Project Canyon Safe held May 22 where volunteers created 10 acres of shaded fuel break in the Robie Point neighborhood. Gross said residents are hoping to prevent a fire like the one that started in their area of the canyon 10 years ago, causing neighbors to evacuate their homes. “I guess the first thing is just for the fire protection,” Gross said. “Our neighborhood sits right on the canyon. We are a bit concerned about repeating that, so we wanted to improve our chances of dodging the fire if it were to start down there.” According to Gross, the only estimated cost for the project so far is about $600 for chipping. If neighbors are able to raise $300, the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council may be able to match the amount. Gross said several neighbors have already agreed to donate funds in lieu of working on the project, and he thinks there will be enough donations to cover the chipping. Gross said the project has already become a means of neighborhood camaraderie as well as fire safety. “One of the things we were finding as a result of that first meeting, and that first work day, is it’s actually bringing the community together,” Gross said. “It’s kind of a community-building activity as well as a community-protection activity.” Baker said Councilman Kevin Hanley, chairman of the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council, along with the Auburn Fire Department and the California Department of Parks and Recreation were involved in the organization of the project. “The neighbors are doing the actual labor, but most of the organization was done by Kevin and the fire department, so we’re not just out here wildly cutting trees,” Baker said. Hanley said several other neighborhoods are already getting involved in their own Project Canyon Safe efforts, and he’s happy the Robie Point project inspired others. “It’s meeting all my expectations,” Hanley said. “I hoped neighbors would step up and they are. We have just got to keep on going and be patient. Acre by acre is just the way it’s going to get done.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Fire Prevention To prevent a fire from consuming your house, Cal Fire recommends both enforcing 100 feet of defensible space and “hardening your home.” Chelsea Fox, spokeswoman for Cal Fire in Placer, Nevada and Yuba counties, said fires could start from vegetation as well as embers flying onto a building. “It’s a two-fold approach that we see when preparing a house to be resistant,” Fox said. “While defensible space is critical, it’s also important to consider ignition-resistant construction … for the home to be able to stand alone.” Cal Fire provides tips for protecting your home at readyforwildfire.org. The website includes information on roofs, vents, windows, eaves, walls decks, gutters, fences, chimneys and more. Wooden roofs are not recommended. “The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.” The website also offers information on keeping your family safe during a fire and gives a complete list of contacts for fire agencies throughout California.