State group gets funds to assist Auburn fuel break

About $100,000 awarded to California Conservation Corps
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Maintaining the 100-plus-acre American River Canyon Shaded Fuel Break project is a never-ending process, and finding various sources of funding is crucial to maintaining its viability, Auburn Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi said.

In that case, the ongoing partnership with California Conservation Corps is a gift that keeps on giving, this time through a $100,000 to $125,000 state grant that will fund their work on eight to 10 acres from Maidu Drive south to Blackstone Court, D’Ambrogi said.

“My concern is how do we keep it viable from here on out,” he said. “And grant funding is one way and community projects is another. We still, every year, need to maintain this project.”

The CCC received the Proposition 84 grant, for fire and fuel hazard reduction projects, to do work for a sponsor of its choosing, and the group pegged Auburn.

“It’s the community we live in and we want to foster a good working relationship with the City of Auburn and the residents in the area,” said Carie Monroe, conservation supervisor for the CCC, a state agency that employs people ages 18-25 and trains them for various careers while concurrently working to improve the environment.

“We are trying to obtain another Prop 84 grant to do more work with the City of Auburn, and we’re applying for some State Responsibility Area funding to hopefully help out in the Auburn area,” with fuel reduction work, Monroe said.

A shaded fuel break is an area where vegetation is removed to help slow the spread of wildfire and give firefighters more of a chance to combat the flames safely, D’Ambrogi said. The area is not entirely cleared; instead of having trees entirely shade the area, people standing in the canyon should be able to look up and see patches of sky – hence “shaded,” he said.

Along with the CCC’s project that had been scheduled to begin preliminary work Thursday, crews have been working since Nov. 2 on a 60-acre, $268,000 fuel reduction project from Robie Point to Portland Avenue.

On that project, crews are getting into “significant dead fuels” that can slow down progress, D’Ambrogi said.

“There’re much more fuels that need to be cut, hauled and chipped,” he said. “So it’s going to take longer amounts of time and resources to do that. One thousand dollars doesn’t just cover ‘X’ amount of territory. It depends on topography and the type of fuels.”

The area the CCC will be clearing hasn’t been worked on “in quite some time,” D’Ambrogi said.

It’s perhaps the last piece of the puzzle that slowly gets disassembled, only to be put back together again – as once vegetation regrows, it’s soon time to get back to work.

“Within the last three years, we believe that every portion of the shaded fuel break has been touched in one fashion or another,” D’Ambrogi said.

The CCC has worked on various projects in Auburn since 2009, including fuel break work in the Aeolia neighborhood in 2011 using a similar $100,000 to $125,000 state grant, D’Ambrogi said.

The amount of the Proposition 84 money isn’t preset because it depends on the number of days the CCC crews are available to work, he said.

Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley said the CCC’s state-funded work on the American River Canyon Shaded Fuel Break embodies the spirit of how the city will need to address some of its challenges in the future.

“This whole private-public partnership is one of a kind in Auburn and it is a trailblazing project to try to solve a problem, and it’s not conventional,” Hanley said. “It’s different, but everyone working together, creative, determined, have made this project really successful the last three years in clearing over 100 acres.”

He said it’s a solution that could potentially extend to other areas, such as public safety with the release of 40,000 inmates from state prisons and nearby communities closing their parole offices.

“Maybe we should explore new ways to address the public safety problem,” Hanley said. “Let’s be creative. We’re not going to get any more money, but people working together can begin to address things like we have with the fire.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews