SIERRA COUNTY FIRE SAFE AND WATERSHED COUNCIL
A group of interested citizens, fire department personnel, industry representatives and governmental agencies held several meetings beginning in April 2001. The first meeting to discuss formalization of the council was held at the USFS Sierraville Ranger District office in Sierraville on December 13, 2002.
After several countywide public meetings, the Sierra County Board of Supervisors established a seven-member Fire Safe and Watershed Council by the adoption of Resolution 2002-044 on April 2, 2002. The Fire Safe and Watershed Council was established as a committee to function under the direction and authority of the Board of Supervisors for the purposes of addressing fire safety and natural resource issues in Sierra County. The Board of Supervisors resolved that the duties of the council shall be as follows:
- Oversee preparation and administration of the county's Fire Safe Plan as directed as the Board of Supervisors.
- Provide recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on matters pertaining to fire safety and watershed management, as needed.
- Oversee and assist in administration of grants for fire safe and watershed efforts obtained by the county as directed by the Board of Supervisors.
- Implement fire safe and watershed programs, as needed and directed by the Board of Supervisors.
While the board intended that the council have countywide representation from various communities throughout the county, the actual appointments were concentrated in the communities of Downieville, Sierra City, and Calpine due to the limited number of applications. The adopted goals of the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council are as follows:
- Reduce the loss of life, property, watershed and other natural resources to catastrophic wildfires.
- Provide educational and motivational demonstrations of hazardous fuel reduction and watershed protection projects on private property in Sierra County.
- Provide economic incentives and assistance for the protection of watershed and for the reduction and utilization of hazardous fuels.
- Create employment opportunities for citizens and businesses in Sierra County.
- Create and implement a cooperative and coordinated program among all agencies, districts and departments involved in watershed, fuel reduction and fire fighting tasks.
Meetings of the Fire Safe and Watershed Council were to be scheduled, called, noticed and conducted in compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act (the California Public Meeting Law). Meetings of the council were open to the public and provided opportunities for public input and comment for matters within the council's jurisdiction. According to the board's directive, a schedule of regular meetings had to be established.
The Fire Safe and Watershed Council, in accordance with the board's directives shall be responsible for the preparation and administration of the Sierra County Community Fire Safe Plan as well as responsible for monitoring the plan's progress and implementation of the plans policies and directives.
In late 2005 it was realized that the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council could function more effectively as a non-profit corporation. By April 2006 that goal had been accomplished and one important change was the council had become its own fiscal sponsor.
The council is composed of volunteers from around the county. Its primary purpose is to seek funding and organize projects with the following goals:
- Increase the safety of our residents, community and natural resources by strategic use of vegetation.
- Empower landowners and residents to care for their property through hazard fuel removal assistance; watershed protection, restoration and enhancement; noxious weed removal; and community education and fire safe monitoring.
- Create meaningful jobs and support local businesses while caring for the watershed.
- Provide assistance in planning at the county level through the fire safe plan, at the community level through fire safe community projects, and at the level of the individual through education and a home site fire safe plan.
Partner with other agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District, the California Fire Safe Council and other groups and organizations who function to preserve and protect the people, communities and watersheds of Sierra County.
The council is still seated with landowners, firefighters, industry professionals and local residents. The council is working to establish Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) zones near communities and secure funding to improve the fire safety of those areas. Council members meet with residents and landowners to create fire safe plans and to raise awareness of the watershed in the county. Current projects in Alleghany and the foothills of the Sierra Valley near Sierraville seek to reduce hazard fuels and improve the watershed. The update of the Sierra County Community Fire Safe Plan written in 2002 is a high priority because it is the basis of fire planning in Sierra County. New projects are being sought and it is hoped that Economic Stimulus funds will soon be available to do more work and employ more people through local contractors.
What you can do:
The council currently has a full board, but supporters are always welcome. You can also schedule a “fire safe” visit to see how your house or land might be made more fire safe. You can attend meetings and provide input on what projects you think the council might want to consider. You can be aware of the Sierra County Fire Safe Plan, attend planning meetings and provide public input. Most of all, you can be Fire Safe!