The Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council is beginning to revise the 2006 Community Wildfire Protection Plan. More than 25 firefighters and land managers met at the FSC’s offices on Franklin Drive Wednesday to begin work on updating the eight-year-old plan.
CWPPs were originally authorized by the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. One of the critical purposes of a CWPP, according to the act, is it “identifies and prioritizes areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommends the types and methods of treatment on federal and non-federal land that will protect [one] or more at-risk communities and essential infrastructure.”
“[The act] was designed to give local groups maximum flexibility,” said Mike Esnard, FSC President. “It’s up to us how we go about this and what we address or what we want to leave out.”
The 2006 plan identified numerous fuels reduction projects on the Hill. More than 25,000 acres of reduction and miles of roadway were recommended for the U. S. Forest Service and Cal Fire.
The revision will identify what has been accomplished and which projects, old or new, are now considered high priority for the communities’ protection.
Enhancing the evaluation of work accomplished will be a “Fuels Treatment Effectiveness Report,” which San Jacinto Ranger District Fire Chief Dan Felix has had prepared since the Mountain and Silver fires in the summer of 2013. The report is being reviewed with the Forest Service hierarchy and may be completed by spring, Felix said.
“The combined efforts had some success,” Felix said about some preliminary findings. “Under those conditions, some didn’t work as well as we hoped and other planned projects may have helped better.” One of the report’s objectives is to identify the most cost-effective projects in an era of limited resources, Felix explained.
Besides hazardous fuels projects, the 2006 CWPP also addressed other issues, which were seen as contributors to improving the communities’ safety from wildfires. Strengthening the enforcement provisions for Riverside County’s abatement ordinance is an example of the other issues.
Evacuation was another issue addressed in the plan and which has provided several success stories, especially during the Mountain Fire. Sgt. John Morin of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Hemet Station ran the Mountain Fire evacuation and was very grateful for the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce maps. He said that whenever he attends incident command meetings, in the state or outside, other agencies are impressed with these plans.
To improve the effectiveness of evacuation management, he did ask the group to consider how it might identify habitable structures from other structures, such as barns and garages, on the evacuations maps.
Another recommendation in the original plan was to establish a program to improve the fire-resistance of existing structures. The FSC’s re-roofing project began replacing wooden roofs with fire-resistant shingles in September.
As the revision proceeds, Esnard said several public meetings would be held to gather comments and thoughts from the whole community.