Future fire protection projects

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While on alert during the Santa Ana winds, fire officials are also making plans for enhancing fire protection on the Hill during the winter season. The status of approved projects and early planning for others were discussed at the Oct. 2 Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting.

Fuelbreaks

The federal shutdown has affected the Hill in several ways. Not only have many San Jacinto Ranger District employees been furloughed, but the consequence is that maintenance contracts for fuelbreaks are on hold.

“The shutdown has put a halt to a lot of projects,” said Arturo Delgado, San Jacinto District ranger. “For example, the West Ridge and Strawberry fuelbreaks; I was planning to sign these contracts this week.”

Planning and implementing the Pine Cove fuelbreak should occur next (fiscal) year, according to Delgado. He also hopes that staff can assess May Valley and Bonita Vista.

Fuel work in the district was limited to the Thomas Mountain area during the summer, according to District Fire Chief Dan Felix. Broadcast burning within the district also will be studied next year.

Modifying the current Forest Closure is in abeyance during the shutdown, according to Delgado. “It is to be revised, but the Office of General Counsel review won’t occur during the shutdown,” he said.

After the shutdown, Delgado plans to have a person dedicated to implementing and overseeing contracts for all emergency treatments within the district.

Cal Fire Unit Forester Gregg Bratcher on the Hill reported that work has continued on several 20-acre fuelbreaks, including Dark Canyon.

The Mountain unit is also watching the status of conifers, as well as oaks, during this dry period. Several clusters of pine have been identified as dead or dying from bark beetle attacks, which are more successful during drought periods, according to Bratcher. These clusters have been marked for removal, he added.

Fire Safe Council

The Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council has continued its fuel abatement work throughout the summer, reported Chris Kramer, FSC 1st vice president. With funding from two separate grants, the FSC has helped to abate nearly 200 properties, equivalent to 111 acres. Their cost was about $250,000.

Importantly, Kramer told the group that the roof replacement grant work has begun on 19 properties. Another 16 have received authority to proceed.

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