Fire Safe Council members planning for the future. Photo courtesy of Doris Jean Lombard

After six months of meetings, conversations and discussions, the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council (FSC) has identified a very ambitious plan of action for the next several years.

The planning began in June 2011 and consummated at a December meeting. Five new goals, which FSC President Michael Esnard finds very exciting for the organization, were the result.

The local Fire Safe Council has been in the vanguard of citizen action and responsibility since its inception at the beginning of this century. Most of its efforts have focused on forest thinning and fire abating private properties.

With federal funds waning and these opportunities diminishing, Esnard, FSC Executive Director Edwina Scott, and the other board members are prepared to continue their efforts to protect the Hill communities from the threat of devastating fires such as the 2003 Cedar or 2007 Witch fires in San Diego County or the 2003 Old Fire in San Bernardino County.

Now the projects are more creative than simply thinning trees and removing debris.

The biggest idea is the construction of a co-generation plant on the Hill, which would accomplish two benefits. It would create a local demand for the wood, slash and debris from abatement and thinning projects. Secondly, it would generate electricity for the Hill community, for example the local schools.

This will be a big project and more planning and research is necessary before the FSC can actually commit to undertaking an effort of this scale, Scott and Esnard acknowledged.

But the board is not composed of single purpose or serial thinkers. While the investigation of the local co-generation plant feasibility advances, the FSC has several other objectives to consume their time.

For example, they plan a community education effort. “We want to reach property owners and encourage them to offer citizen support to the Forest Service and CAL FIRE,” Esnard said. “For example, they might do some fuel break maintenance with our Woodies.”

This objective is based on work the FSC has done with property owners on Doubleview Drive, adjacent to the West Ridge Fuel Break. But this fuel break work will have to wait until the Forest Service updates its environmental paperwork.

Then they are considering implementing a pilot project to abate vacant lots. This would benefit the property, the neighbors and the community, Scott said. San Bernardino County has a program, which the FSC will review.

Basically, the FSC believes a healthy forest is good protection for the forest’s residents, including humans, Esnard said. “There always has to be a balance. And we always have to pay attention to the environmental issues,” he stressed.

And this message is one which Esnard and Scott hope to share with more community groups this year. Their outreach starts with individuals and property owners and comes back to the groups, which serve the entire community, such as the FSC.