At the June 8 Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting, local fire officials discussed preparations for the current fire season and other local projects, which might affect fire threats.

Edwina Scott, executive director of the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, reported that MCFSC has helped 99 homeowners (and one more will be completed next week) to replace their shake- and wood-shingle roofs with fire-resistant Class A roofs.

“We are almost finished with the re-roofing grant,” she said. “And we are under the budget.” As a result of the savings, MCFSC may be able to increase the homeowner reimbursement to 75 percent of the cost.

“We got two [State Responsibility Act] grants from Cal Fire,” Scott added. “One is to remove dead and dying trees, and the other to abate fuels on private properties.”

These grant funds have resulted in completed work on 10 parcels (the total area is 13 acres) and more than 40 tons of fuel removed.

During the discussion of the Idyllwild Grinding Station, Marge Muir, Pine Cove resident and local real estate agent, urged CR&R to open an extra day during the week. “Especially in the summer, people visit and work weekends [cleaning property],” she said.

Currently, the site is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. On Saturday, the hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz agreed with Muir about opening another day. “It’s mostly to help the contractors,” he noted.

Lisa Thompson of the Riverside County Waste Resources Department reported that more than 230 tons of green waste has been collected at the grinding site since mid-March. “We expect a new grinder in the middle of July,” she added.

Both the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire are completing pile-burn projects as well as work on the fuelbreaks surrounding the Idyllwild and Pine Cove communities.

Forest Service District Fire Chief Fred Espinoza said staffing is just about at full complement. “I’ve just done hiring temporary staff in Sacramento,” he reported.

The Pine Cove Fuelbreak contract has been awarded, but first some road maintenance must be completed. Work has started on South Ridge and will start soon on West Ridge, according to Espinoza.

“Work on the Ernie Maxwell Fuelbreak is moving forward,” reported Capt. Michael Sebastian of Cal Fire’s Pre-Fire Unit.

The State Parks [Mount San Jacinto State Park] is working on trails in Long Valley and along the Fuller Ridge portion of the Pacific Crest Trail,” said Ken Kietzer, senior environmental scientist for the State Parks.

Near the meeting’s close, county Fire Chief John Hawkins said, “I’ve been involved with MAST since 2004. And I’ve seen a lot of high points and less high points; but we come together to do this.” Then he suggested that MAST’s command officers conduct a fire gaming exercise to deal with different scenarios.

“Our job is to maximize similarities and minimize differences,” he advised everyone.