Our View: Making city’s defensible space ordinance permanent the right call

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How you can create defensible space
• Create a defensible space of 100 feet around your home. It is required by law.
• Create a “lean, clean and green zone” by removing all flammable vegetation within 30 feet immediately surrounding your home.
• Then create a “reduced fuel zone” in the remaining 70 feet or to your property line.
You have two options in this area:
A. Create horizontal and vertical spacing between plants. The amount of space will depend on how steep your property is and the size of your plants.
B. Large trees do not have to be removed as long as all of the plants beneath them are removed.
• Remove lower tree branches at least six feet from the ground.
• Landscape with fire resistant plants.
• Maintain all plants with regular water, and keep dead branches, leaves and needles removed.
• When clearing vegetation, use care when operating equipment such as lawnmowers. One small spark may start a fire; a string trimmer is much safer.
• Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures and remove vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles.
• Above ground liquefied petroleum gas (LP-gas) containers (500 or less water gallons) shall be located a minimum of 10 feet with respect to buildings, public ways and lot lines of adjoining property that can be built upon.
• Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves and other debris from your yard.
• Contact your local fire department to see if debris burning is allowed in your area; if so, obtain a burning permit and follow all local air quality restrictions.
 ~ Source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

There’s a tradeoff when it comes to living in Auburn and the surrounding foothill communities. While many of us live here for the way of life and the beauty that the front porch of the Sierra Nevada provides, boiling just underneath that is a real threat – wildfire.
We don’t have to look far back to know what kind of damage the flame can do – the 49 Fire swept through this region a few years ago taking with it homes and livelihoods. Hence the creation by the Auburn City Council an ordinance that promoted neighborhood cooperation to create defensible space.
That ordinance was set to expire this May, and last week the council voted to make it permanent — the right choice for those of us living in this community.
Residing in a land of wild grasses, heavy underbrush and large trees, one must always be mindful of the dangers of wildfire. Letting sources of fire fuel gather around your home or you neighbor’s property is a recipe for disaster, which is why this defensible space measure being permanent is the right call.
Working together for the greater good of the community is something many in Auburn have been known for — and fire prevention is no different. Many have responded to the call to help one another when it comes to protection of property. A 100-foot barrier of cleared out space around any building is the requirement, despite whose side of the property line the structure’s on.
We’ve seen cooperation from people such as Patsy Shrum, who’s lived near Robbie point for two decades, as she helped her neighbor — who physically could not clean up around his property — create a defensible space zone around his home.
“Because he’s so ill and he can’t do it, we hired someone to come cut all around his home there,” she told the Journal last week. “So of course we have to make sure it’s safe for everybody. That’s the main thing: We want it safe for everybody.”
“Safe for everybody,” that is the goal.
If for some reason you’re not inclined to comply, which in the last two years of the ordinance has only been a couple times by one property owner, the city will make sure that inability to maintain the fire fuels on your property does not jeopardize those residents who work hard to protect theirs.
The city will go out to said property, assess the cleanup and pay for the work to be done. Afterward, the city will send the property owner the bill — a sensible solution to a situation that simply cannot be ignored.
Living in the foothills brings a different level of responsibility to property maintenance and protection. Living here isn’t like residing in the cookie-cutter developments of South Placer County, where fire fuels are replaced with the concrete jungle of pavement and development.
Auburn’s ordinance only applies to property within the “very high” and “high” fire hazard severity zones in the city, but guess what? That’s pretty much all of Auburn except for the core of Downtown. So it’s evident that there’s a real need to keep an ordinance like this going, and for neighbors to help each other out when it comes to protecting their property.
Soon Placer County will also have to address a similar measure that is set to reach its sunset date. We hope that county officials see the wisdom of Auburn’s City Council and emulate them in this matter.
Because living in the foothills means wildfires can, and are, a part of our daily lives.