Friday Nov 04 2011
Placer panel to hear appeals on hazardous vegetation cleanup orders
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Owners of brush-choked properties will be able to argue their case to keep their land wild before a new hazardous vegetation management panel set up by Placer County. The panels will be the last line of defense if the newly created post of County Fire Warden issues a compulsory abatement and cost-recovery order. The panel will include Cal Fire Ranger Unit Chief Brad Harris, who also serves as the county fire warden. The other two panel members will be appointed by the Board of Supervisors. There will two panels – one for western Placer County’s participating districts and one in the Tahoe area. Rui Cunha, assistant director of emergency services for Placer County, said the hearing body is expected to be in place by January. The fall and winter are actually good times of the year for fire districts to work on hazardous vegetation abatement in western Placer County districts because they won’t be dealing with more pressing firefighting issues that occur during the hotter months, Cunha said. The Tahoe areas have a shorter window during months when snow isn’t on the ground, he said. Local fire agencies in western Placer County participating in the hazardous vegetation abatement process include Foresthill, Penryn and Loomis districts, as well as Placer County Fire. Auburn Fire Department has its own long-standing hazardous vegetation program. In the North Lake Tahoe area, four districts are taking part, including the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. “Some agencies have chosen not to participate in the ordinance,” Cunha said. “The primary reason is workload and the impact it would have on their time to get firefighters out to different properties. Most of the fire departments in Placer County are dealing with revenue issues and trying to cut costs. Some of the first cuts are prevention staff.” Adopted late last year, the ordinance encourages property owners to clear hazardous brush on unimproved property where it puts the owners of adjacent parcels with structures at significant risk. The ordinance has a series of steps that start with encouraging property owners, to inspecting properties and seeking cooperation, to compulsory abatement and cost recovery if the issue remains unresolved. The county’s hazardous vegetation abatement ordinance was initiated in North Lake Tahoe and then expanded more recently to participating areas in the western part of the county. The purpose is to help reduce the spread of wildfire in areas where open lands are near homes and other structures. Residents interested in serving on either the western or eastern Placer County panel can receive an application from the clerk of the Board of Supervisors office at 175 Fulweiler Ave., in Auburn or online at www.placer.ca.gov/bos/comcomnu.aspx. The phone number is (530) 889-4020.