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Safe canyon for Auburn

Project Canyon Safe offers community members chance to prevent fires
By: Bridget Jones Journal staff writer
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Auburn residents will be working to save lives and land Saturday. Project Canyon Safe is an effort to recreate a shaded fuel break throughout 10 acres of the Robie Point area of the American River Canyon. Kevin Hanley, Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council chairman, said a shaded fuel break created on the federal land in 2002 has not been maintained and the canyon is once again a fire threat. Hanley said this is the first time the city of Auburn has been allowed to clear growth from federal land, which is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation. “I think it’s the first time just about anywhere where a local agency, like a city government, has been given permission to go on federal lands,” said Chief Mark D’Ambrogi of the Auburn Fire Department. D’Ambrogi said the bureau is showing faith in Auburn because of the city’s dedication to keeping itself safe. “It’s more of our commitment of doing projects on the federal property and being considerate, and following (federal) guidelines and working together, establishing those (strong) relationships,” D’Ambrogi said. A shaded fuel break consists of clearing the land of brush and low tree limbs to prevent fire from spreading up trees and from treetop to treetop. It also gives the fire department a more open area in which to drop fire retardant when fires occur, according to Hanley. D’Ambrogi said 12 members of the California Conservation Corps and Auburn Fire Department officials will be operating all chainsaws, but volunteers are encouraged to bring handsaws and pruning sheers to cut low limbs and brush if necessary. D’Ambrogi said he is excited to have the help of the California Conservation Corps. “They’re a crew and this is their normal job,” he said. “They’re in fuel reduction all the time. They’re considered, in my opinion, the experts.” Brushbuster, Inc. of Foresthill and Bushwackers, Inc. of Auburn will also be supplying wood chippers and crews Saturday. Scott Serenbetz, owner of Bushwackers, Inc., said he thinks this project is important because it will help protect the community from another fire. “I think it’s a great idea,” Serenbetz said. “I think it’s been well organized and I think it will help out.” Hanley said volunteers would not be operating any machinery during the clearing. Saturday’s volunteers may come into contact with poison oak, but officials are taking safety measures very seriously. Volunteers will see an example of poison oak before they begin and first aid will be available on-site. Hanley said he doesn’t think the site poses much danger to the majority of volunteers, and people who wear long pants and shirts should be just fine. “I walked the area, and I think the average hardy volunteer will be just fine,” Hanley said. “We have professionals looking over the shoulders of volunteers and making sure they are safe.” The city is also providing workers’ compensation coverage to all volunteers. Hanley said a local anonymous donor has promised to match all donations received for the project. Donations will be used to provide lunch to volunteers as well as to help continue this project in future years, Hanley said. Donations can be made out to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce with Project Canyon Safe written in the memo line. Hanley said he expects about 75 volunteers Saturday, but more are always welcome. Volunteers can park at Borland Avenue and Lubeck Road where a shuttle will take them to the worksite. Cars will be available throughout the day to drive between the parking area and Robie Point. Wes Fain, who will be volunteering on Saturday, said, for him, this project really hits home. “It’s a good idea for Auburn, and it’s even more personal for me because I live on the canyon,” Fain said. “You’ve got to (keep defensible space) because someday we’re going to have a fire here. At least it gives the firefighters a chance to put up a battle line.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ---------------------------------------------- Project Canyon Safe When: 8 a.m. — 2 p.m., Saturday What to wear: long pants, shirts with long sleeves, study shoes and garden gloves What to bring: handsaws and pruning shears Parking: Borland Avenue and Lubeck Road with a shuttle service to the site Volunteers should be at least 10 years old Water and food will be provided Call: Kevin Hanley, (530) 906-1042