The Mountain Area Safety Taskforce prepares, as it does each year, to be fully staffed and ready for the challenges of fire season — a season that is lengthening each year and fueled this year by heavier precipitation.

MAST is a multiagency taskforce organized to cooperate in fire response, educate the public about abatement and work together strategically to prevent wildfires.

Part of that strategy is meeting on a regular basis on the Hill to receive project reports and updates.

At the Wednesday, June 14, meeting held at the Idyllwild County Park Nature Center, representatives noted that fire agencies are currently fully staffed and ready as summer heat and fire likelihood grow more intense. Attending agencies reported already having responded to 33 wildfires of varying size. U.S. Forest Service Division Chief Freddie Espinoza reported progress on fuelbreak and thinning projects that are part of ongoing wildfire defense preparation.

Hill residents were urged to have checklists for defensible space to update as the fire season progresses. For example, abating one’s property early in the year raises the possibility of needing to remove more grass growth as the summer progresses.

Jerry Hagen, emergency services coordinator for Riverside County Fire, reported that 12 new Hill volunteers completed a Community Emergency Response Training workshop adding to the already large corps of CERT-trained Hill residents prepared to assist emergency responders when disaster strikes. Attendee Marge Muir said, “I took the course and kudos to all involved.”

Hagen also recommended, a new county emergency preparedness site with valuable information for Hill residents.

Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins thanked the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council for its ongoing efforts in educating residents about abatement and obtaining grants to assist with that abatement. Noting Pat Boss’s retirement from FSC as project manager, Hawkins recommended issuing a joint agency letter thanking Boss for his service.

Pine Cove Water District General Manager Jerry Holldber concurred. In speaking to FSC Executive Director Edwina Scott, he said, “The thank yous go to you and Pat for helping to keep the community safe.” Scott demurred. “The thanks go to all in the trenches who keep this mountain safe,” she said.

Idyllwild Fire Protection District Chief Patrick Reitz announced there was a 30-percent rate fail for first-round abatement notices and that second-round notices went out on June 1.

The next MAST meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Nature Center.