Firesafe Updates


The Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council scored two new board members this week.  Below is a press release.

The Fire Safe Council is vitally important to the county, as by far the best way to coordinate hazard and excess fuel removal.  Such efforts make our lives safer and improve our watersheds.  The Council has a major impact in our communities and mountains.  Recently, the Council moved into watershed activity of the sort which can easily become controversial and problematic.  Critics including this editor point out that the new approach benefits out of county interests over local interests, as when the coordinator helps the Forest Service compete with local groups for funding, or furthers watershed restoration of the sort cautious people doubt.  At the same time, the work plan is devoid of what is really needed: technical assistance to landowners and residents on small, local efforts to generally improve the watershed for people and wildlife.  Once answerable to the Board, and so the people; now it is a non-profit corporation operating in the interest of the people of the county.  The board, composed of a cross section of county residents, is a tenuous but very important tie to local interests.  The new board members bring experience and local knowledge, and might calm some local concerns, though of course we’ll see!

Good luck, new board members!


March 2012

Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council – PRESS RELEASE

The council met in Downieville on Friday February 25th, Board members Nancy Finney, Pete Hubener, Kathleen Goicoechea and Andrew Winberry welcomed both Irving Christensen of Cal Ida on Hwy 49 and Cassandra Martinetti of Calpine to the council board. The council and Staff recognize support from recently retiring members Robert Eshleman and Laurenc DeVita, both of whom contributed to the Fire Safe and Watershed Council’s considerable success over the past several years.

Big news on public safety from the council is our recent partnership with Care Flight out of Reno that allows for Sierra County residents with current insurance coverage to pay only $30 for a membership. If you want to know more or sign up go to the council web site  and click on Care Flight membership. The program will cover supplemental costs for what Lee Brown, County Emergency Medical System coordinator, says is now a “five digit helicopter ride to a trauma center”.

Council staff is working with RPR Danielle Banchio, to prepare a bid prospectus for 50 acres of fuels treatment in Loyalton Pines. This Stevens Money was brought to the attention of staff by USFS Fuels Officers Sam Donahue and Ruby Burks of the Sierraville Ranger Station. Mike Freschi, Council Operations Director, sees this as a unique opportunity  to protect homes and lives within Loyalton Pines. On a related note, have west side residents seen the two Right of Way projects recently completed by Foothill Tree Service on Hwy 49? These two projects are funded by Title II RAC funds, again brought to Sierra County by the Sierraville Ranger District. Landowners Jim Johnston and Irv Christensen count themselves as lucky to be the recipient of these show case projects. Look for the Right of Way Banners on Hwy 49 this spring. Next Time you see Steve Folsom and his dedicated crew at the Downieville Cal Trans facility give them a wave since they, too, are steadily working toward safer access for residents and visitors alike on the Hwy 49 corridor.

Watershed Coordinator Regine Miller of Pike City is pushing the Sierra County envelope by facilitating board development training for the council this spring. She has also helped to keep the group of small water purveyors on the west side who have come together with a large application to the CABY Intergraded Regional Water Management Plan on task.  She is working with Alleghany County Water District, Downieville Public Utility District, Central Town Water System, Buttes Road Mutual Water System, Cemetery District, Maple Grove, Tshopp, Sierra City VDF, Camptonville Community Service, and Kentucky Mine-Wixon Springs to make sure our Sierra County application is competitive and on the top of the CABY  pile.

Keep tabs on what the council is up to by frequently checking our web site  we host a monthly meeting , and encourage participation.



New Watershed Coordinator and Continuing Firesafe Work 

After many months in the making, the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council can now claim the successful acquisition of a State of California Department of Conservation grant for a Watershed Coordinator. The award provides for a position that has never existed in Sierra County prior to the Council pursuing the grant. Given that water is a very hot topic in Sierra County, and that Sierra County contains the headwaters to the Little Truckee River, the North Yuba River, the Feather River and, in the far eastern part of the county, the Long Valley flow, it was agreed to have someone qualified at the helm would do the Council no harm.

Regine Miller, of Pike City, has taken up post with the Council as their Watershed Coordinator.  She will primarily focus on providing regional natural resources leadership and communication in the four watersheds originating within Sierra County. Regine’s duties include enhancing stakeholder communication in and among the watersheds, and fostering planning efforts that protect and enhance the watersheds.  She plans to facilitate regional group meetings such as educational workshops, trainings and tours, to support fire safe activities and emphasize their connection to water quality, and to enhance multi-media communications to distribute information and promote watershed-related activities.

 Prior to joining the Council, Regine worked as a Senior Restoration Ecologist for H.T. Harvey & Associates and served as a long-standing Board member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration.  Regine holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara where she researched the effects of an invasive plant species in a coastal salt marsh, and a M.S. from the University of Nevada Reno where she studied the relationship between surface and groundwater flow, vegetation and soils in arid montane riparian ecosystems.  Regine readily welcomes ideas and interest from the community at . 

The Council is enthusiastic about their numerous primary fuels related activities that are currently under way.  As a function of the county-wide fire planning effort, the Council has completed the 2011 draft CWPP map that can be viewed on the Council’s web site,  The Plan indicates a specific interest in providing safe exits on all county roads in the event of a natural disaster such as catastrophic wild fire.  A private landowner with forested timber has agreed to allow the Council to hit the 100’ right-of-way on his land along Highway 49 in Indian Valley.  Keep an eye out for Cal Trans cones and the support of the Downieville crew when traveling Hwy 49 this fall.  Also of note, the Council is coordinating with Sierra County to treat the forested area around the Sierra City transfer station and is also planning to chip within for several western Sierra County communities this fall using the county chipper.

Don’t forget the Council has the best opportunity around to protect your home and the homes of loved ones: order a reflective address sign for only $12 each.  A reflective address sign will allow emergency services providers to quickly find you in the time of need.  Check out our web site to order on-line or call Cindy at (530) 249 -0444.



In kind documentation for community work is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT !!!

The Sierra County Fire Safe council is STILL waiting to submit an application to the California Fire Safe Council  for funding  that will allow the council to get fuels reduction work done around the villages of Goodyears Bar, Downieville and Sierra City. The application submission date has been pushed back twice this spring. The good news here, is this gives the council additional time to work with these three communities to collect the all important In-kind hours that we know people have already undertaken.

Just days ago council staff visited with the congenial guys from Foothill Tree service in a yard just west of Sierra City. Stan Hannas explained their crew has been hard at work cleaning up storm damaged trees for weeks.  Staffer Mike Freschi says “These guys are great and really get with it”.

The council has the In- kind documentation forms stashed at both west side transfer stations, or you can download it on the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council web site 

We ask that residents on the west side keep track of either the clean up hours they do themselves or the hours they pay for on the In-kind document and either drop these forms back at the transfer stations or mail them to us at SCFSWC POB 210 Calpine CA 96124.

SCFSWC update, by Robert Eshleman

Calpine -- The Sierra County Firesafe and Watershed Council held a Board of Directors meeting on July 13, 2010 to take stock of current ongoing projects. Directors were plied with refreshments provided by Kathy Freschi of Sierra Valley Realty. 

New RAC monies in the amount of 45,000.00 have been granted for uses beginning in September. A $5000.00 portion of those monies are allocated to watershed restoration, a first such designation of monies under the purview of the SCFSWC.  This will support the administration of a contract that holds Feather River Trout Unlimited responsible to
provide Sagebrush Trout Unlimited with a preliminary stream survey that will bring the USFS data on Cold Stream current.  This will compliment those efforts to restore the Little Truckee River to an active fishery.  An overarching purpose of all fire safe work is to protect our valuable watersheds, in addition to our communities.

Some projects have been put on hold.   The Western Sierra fuel reduction project which includes Downieville and Sierra City is favorably considered by the California Fire Safe Council.   However CFSC Northern Sierra Grant Manager, Dan Lang, has alerted Executive Director Cindy Noble and Operations Director Mike Freschi that the unfunded applications are now being held in a “pre-approved hold list”. Should CFSC be successful in obtaining additional funds throughout the rest of this year, they will return to that hold list and identify additional applications for funding.  However the RAC monies already granted can and will be applied to the clean up work to be done along the Hwy. 49 corridor between Downieville and Sierra City. Staffers at the council think this fuels reduction work on the 49 corridor will make the Sierra City / Downieville application even stronger. The council also intends to provide several community chipping days this fall, if any community feels they would like “some chipping” start building piles and let the council staff know your needs.

Registered Professional Forester Danielle Banchio, of SCFSWC, gave a presentation on fuels reduction to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy meeting on June  23,  2010.  Jim Branham, Executive Officer of SNC noted that Sierra County is unique with a coordination of fire safe and watershed efforts. Turns out that being a Fire Safe Council that combines fuel reduction with Watershed efforts is NOT COMMAN in the sierras.   The ubiquitous Jim Turner of SPI also attended stressing the bio mass solution.

The difficulty in enlisting "out of town" property owners in the larger coordinated community projects is a difficulty for all rural areas.  A discussion of the means to overcome the thresholds of communication and compliance was conducted.   SCFSWC is not an enforcement tool, but rather is an aid to the private landowner to facilitate clean up work through various programs and available grants.  Community education and communication remain key. Also, it was deemed as not feasible to transport the fuel stream from the Loyalton Pines project to the SPI Biomass Facility as the terrain problems are insurmountable.   This is a disappointment as the refuse must be burned on site as opposed to making electricity.   It also counter to the efforts to try to retain our compliance rating with California Air Resources,   a very valuable condition to forestall draconian regulation.  SPI,  and specifically in the person of Jim Turner has been accommodating the widest possible means to achieve conversion of our refuse forest fuels into producing electricity,  whether by transportation of chips or bulk material.

The Eastern Sierra County project continues to advance with persistent effort to enlist as may landowners as is practical, but the time for certain action is approaching.  SCFSWC will not be able to assist those landowners who have not signed on in a timely fashion.  A map of the overview of the project area is dramatic showing in clear relief those neglected properties with high fuel loads, to those properties where regular forest management and maintenance is done.  The Holstrom forest properties within the project area show positive fuel management as clear example.

There is also an active RAC grant which will be applied to community chipping days to facilitate air pollution free clearance of residential property fuel loads.  Timely notice will be given for community chipping days.  Accessible, well organized piles greatly increase efficiency for work crews. 

It was determined that limited resource fire safe information could be most efficiently targeted by “Living with Fire” handouts to be included in the Mountain Messenger circulation to start.

The Sierra County Firesafe and Watershed Council will continue to conduct regular public meetings aiming for the last Friday of each month in various locations of community convenience, with notices to be published.  As these meetings often treat matters of finance, the public is encouraged to attend.




April 15, 2010

As you may be aware, the Sierra County Fire Safe Council has secured funds to reduce hazardous fuels within the communities of Sierraville and Calpine during 2010.

The Eastern Sierra County Community Fire Protection Project aims to reduce hazardous fuels within Sierraville and Calpine. Hazardous fuels reduction involves the thinning of forest ladder fuels (smaller trees in the understory) and reduction of existing surface fuels (dead and down woody debris, brush, etc). This treatment is typically achieved through use of mechanized equipment and/or hand thinning/piling/burning. All work is completed by a qualified and insured private contractor hired by the Sierra County Fire Safe Council, with project oversight provided by a Registered Professional Forester (RPF). There is no cost share required to participate in this project.

The Sierra County Fire Safe Council will be holding another community meeting about this project, where the forester working on the project as well as Fire Safe Council members will be available to discuss the project details and answer any questions you may have. The meeting takes place on:

- April 22nd, 6 pm at the Sierraville Ranger Station


If you are interested in participating in this project, have questions, or would like to schedule a meeting with the forester, please call Danielle Banchio at (530) 284-1800 or (530) 927-7095.

We hope to see you at one of the meetings, and look forward to talking with you soon.

Please tell your neighbors!


March 3, 2010

Fire Safe Update
by Robert Eshleman

The SCFSWC Board conducted the monthly meeting at the Sierraville USFS station. Chair Nancy Finney commenced the meeting promptly at 10:00 AM running the typically sharply paced meeting to address an agenda list of twelve items. It was also well attended by the public and interested official parties, including Planning Commission members Anne Eldred and Dick Devore, County Forester Frank Stewart and RPF Danielle Banchio, the Sierra Brooks Property Association, Mike De Lasaux of the U.C Cooperative Extension, and local business concerns including Jim Turner of SPI and Stan Harris of Foothill Sierra Tree Service. Quentin Youngblood of the USFS was also in attendance.

Routine business was given swift treatment. A representative of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was also in present.

Kim Ingram of the UC Ag & Natural Resource Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Program gave an extensive presentation of the "SNAMP" plan. This program enlists the expertise of the U.C. research capabilities to give an independent third party review of the fire prevention and management practices of the USFS to facilitate public input and to feedback to the USFS the results of fuel reduction programs. Two areas of study are being conducted: the northern 25,000 acre Foresthill Project and the Sugar Pine project of 18,000 acres being done south of Yosemite. Both sites are large enough to contain complete biological species and watershed studies in a addition to the fuel reduction effectiveness. The goal is to dispense with environmental controversy and to determine what works. This work may well become a nationwide model. County Forester Frank Stewart observed that the given pace of current thinning efforts may take twenty years to show results, but the study will render conclusions in only seven years.

SCFSWC staff member Cindy Noble then gave a presentation on the three day forum studying pre-fire treatment plans, and post fire studies and follow up treatment. It was noted how important local council work is to the state fire plan. Plumas, Lassen and Sierra Counties are leaders in this effective work.

Quentin Youngblood commented on the map generation effort to develop the Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Forester Frank Stewart underscored how these maps are foundation to project development and grant applications. A strong recommendation to apply RAC money to fund the costs was made. The CWPP work is being started in Verdi, with the strong support of Supervisor Huebner.

Board member Laurenc DeVita gave a detailed study of the bio-mass densification methods and equipment. The goal is to get bio-mass fuels to the SPI Co-gen plant in a cost efficient manner and to reduce the County carbon footprint and air pollution concerns.

Vallea Rose of Sierra Brooks Property Association spoke to the interest in the Sierra Brooks for a comprehensive clean-up. The Loyalton success was suggested as a model for the efforts in Sierra Brooks and Loyalton Pines. SPI and Northern Sierra Solid Waste are willing to provide transport bins to accomplish material transport to the Co-gen plant.

Danielle Banchio SCFSWC forester then reported on the progress of the Eastern Sierra County Fire Protection project. The work should go out for bid by June. The discussion moved to the intended work to be done in Sierra City and Downieville. Presently 140 acres are being slated for work to be funded by a grant of $196,000 to be applied to both communities. Most of the work is hand work to address the problem of steep slopes and access.

The final council item was the approval of the Mission statement and goals for 2010. And the meeting was then adjourned.

February 16, 2010





Sierra County Fire protection District #1 and the Sierra County Fire Safe Council are in awe of a project that has delivered immediate results. Since December of 2009, just a few months ago the two entities agreed that a major county wide problem in regards to Emergency Medical Services needed addressing. Thus was born the Reflective Address Sign campaign. Rather than go it alone the two groups agreed that by working together to reduce the cost of the sign by half and offer these reflective signs for only $10 was a great idea. So far the council has ordered had more than 25 signs from district #1 fire. "You can’t miss these signs, they are starting to pop up everywhere" commented Cindy Noble, Executive Director of the fire safe council who looks forward to continuing the campaign into the summer months. Lee Brown the county wide coordinator for Emergency Services agrees that this project will help both Fire and Emergency Service response time’s county wide.

Danielle Banchio the Registered Professional Forester, who is coordinating with council staff on the development of the much needed fuels reduction work in Sierra City and Downieville feels, combining the work to be done around both towns, will make a more competitive application to the California Fire Safe Council. The council has also been contacted by landowners in Sierra Brooks, who want to see fuels reduction work in their area too. Ruby Burks USFS Fuels Officer is supporting this proposed work in that it complements the fuels treatment that she will begin on federal lands that are just south of Loyalton Pines. The fire safe council hopes landowners near any of the proposed treatment areas would contact the Sierra County Fire Safe Council with interest in being included.

The council’s monthly meeting will be held Friday the 26 starting at 10 am in Sierraville at the USFS conference room 317 S. Lincoln Street. Please contact the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council at our web site for more information.

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