Fuel abatement in historical burn areas is an ongoing responsibility of firefighting management and crews. Wednesday, June 3, Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire personnel thinned vegetation on 4.4 miles of the Poppet Flat Truck Trail. Part of ongoing projects throughout the county to thin fire fuel and create shaded fuelbreaks, the work is funded by the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fee — a tax paid by property owners with habitable structures within SRAs.
SRAs are those in which the state is financially responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires. SRAs do not include lands within city boundaries or federal ownership.
The Poppet Flat Truck Trail runs from Poppet Flats down to the Soboba reservation. The corridor has frequently hosted fire; and the road — one through which fire vehicles and equipment need to have access — is necessary for combating advancing fire.
To keep the trail passable, hand crews from Oak Glen Conservation Camp, state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, removed fire fuel and created vegetative mosaics designed to hinder advancing fire. Graders also will be used to repair weather damage to the trail to accommodate expedient transit of fire vehicles. Said Fire Captain and Public Information Officer Lucas Spelman, “We’re modifying the trail to make it more defensible.” Cal Fire Division Chief Steven Beach noted that the project also includes restoring several older cement water recovery and storage cisterns in the area. “Only a few of the 22 in the county were left serviceable,” he said. “We’ll be doing vegetation modification around the cisterns. There’ll be some use next year of SPF money for valves.”
Spelman noted that removing fire fuel is a manicure process, one careful to leave vegetation that will prevent erosion and also not decimate the natural beauty of the area. Crews also removed low limbs on trees or brush adjacent to the trail. Riverside County Battalion Chief Andrew Bennett noted that prior to the work being conducted, there had been an extensive planning process that reviewed any archaeological or biological concerns in the project area. “Given that the work has to be conducted at a particular time, after winter rain and before peak fire season, we were able to get the permit [for the Poppet Flat project] in about two months.”
Beach noted, “Our job is to be good stewards of this money so that it is very specifically used. We’re going to get the critical roads done.”
Spelman pointed out,” It’s important to communicate with the community to let them know what we’re doing on behalf of the public and their tax dollars.”
Oak Glen Conservation Camp Commander Keith Guillory was on hand supervising the inmate crews. “Using inmate labor is a good use of tax dollars,” he said. “We use our own vehicles, so we’re just paying for gas. We have to show how the tax dollars are used and demonstrate accountability.”
The Town Crier will continue to follow projects that use SRA Fire Prevention Fee tax dollars.