A small step toward fire safety

Fire Safe and city announce Project Canyon Safe
By: Melody Stone, Journal staff writer
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The Auburn City Council and The Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council are gearing up to clear the fuel break in the American River Canyon and they need volunteers to help. At Monday’s city council meeting Councilman Kevin Hanley announced Project Canyon Safe. The project consists of a community event to remove flammable vegetation from a strip of public land in the Robie Point Neighborhood, creating a defensive line against fire. The cleanup is scheduled for May 22 at 8 a.m. Teams of volunteers led by trained team leaders and the Auburn Fire Department will work to remove low-hanging tree branches and clear away the underbrush. The Fire Safe Council is currently seeking community support in the way of volunteers and donations. Volunteers are needed to bring handsaws or loppers to remove tree branches, haul brush and help with lunch for the work crews. Hanley is hoping for around 150 volunteers. "If we got more volunteers we'd probably expand the project,” Hanley said. "That's why we're asking for volunteers now." Scott Serenbetz of Buchwackers Inc. agreed to donate two tracked wood chippers and a labor crew to help with the project. "I belong to the community and I've been a resident here since ’76,” Serenbetz said. “This is where I live. I just wanted to help out.” Bushwackers Inc. clears away vegetative fire hazards. Serenbetz said safety is not only the reason for clearing the vegetation; it’s also a primary concern on the job site. He said volunteers will need to look out for rattlesnakes and poison oak. "It can be dangerous work," Serenbetz said. “But I think the more dangerous work will be performed by the Auburn Fire Department and the professionals. There definitely will be a need for additional help." The project currently spans about 10 acres within the 11-mile shaded fuel break. The break runs along the canyon through private and public land. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manages the land. The city of Auburn and the bureau recently entered into a memorandum of understanding which allows for projects like Project Canyon Safe to occur under Auburn Fire Department supervision. Auburn Fire Chief Mark D'Ambrogi has been working on maintaining the fuel break since it was created six years ago. The fire department applied for grants to fund the clearing effort but those won’t come through until next year. "I'm looking at it as an excellent education tool for people to actually see the fuels we're dealing with out there," D’Ambrogi said. “We’ll also see how much can we (clear) with free labor." D’Ambrogi said a professional crew of 16 people could clear about a half- to one acre a day. The entire fuel break is more than a 100 acres. However or whoever does the clearing, D’Ambrogi said the risk is great and the job needs to get done. "We saw what happened last year with the 49 Fire incident, which is a lower-risk area than our project,” D’Ambrogi said. “So you can do the math on that one.” As for safety on the job site, D’Ambrogi said volunteers will have to avoid poison oak, but with lots of people on site the rattlesnakes should clear out. He said he’s confident with good training and organization the project should run smoothly. Project Canyon Safe – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 22, The Robie Point Neighborhood Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Kevin Hanley at (530) 906-1042 or To help organize the project visit the Fire Safe Council’s weekly meeting Fridays at 9 a.m. in Room 10 at Auburn City Hall