The Nevada County Coalition of Firewise Communities, formed September 2017, is an all-volunteer organization (no staff, no dues and no budget) which works with, but is not related to, the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County. We are representatives and residents of about 100 Firewise Communities (FWCs) in Nevada County -- that number includes more than 60 NFPA-certified FWCs and the rest "in the pipeline" for certification. Individual FWCs, as part of a well-respected national movement, are certified through, and supported by, the Fire Safe Council.
The Coalition was created to bring FWC representatives together every month to share ideas and information with each other and to amplify the county-wide effort to educate residents on wildfire preparedness. We work hard in our neighborhoods to promote safe practices in a dangerous wildfire environment. The Coalition may also sometimes act as a "voice of the people" in advocating for better fire-safe practices and policies.
In early 2020 the Coalition moved to online Zoom meetings that we later opened to the public. Our meetings are recorded and available in our Archive. Our email list has grown to more than 500 people concerned about wildfire.
In addition to holding educational meetings and maintaining this website of resources, the Coalition also creates easy-to-understand documentation to address frequently asked questions. These documents, which can be found with other materials on our Education Resources page, include Roadside Clearing Regulations for both County and City residents; What Do You Do When Your 100 feet of Defensible Space Goes Onto a Neighbor's Property?; and How to Stay Informed During Wildfire Season.
Our regular meeting time is the first Tuesday of every month at 5:30 pm (unless re-scheduled due to holiday/weather).
We met at Esterly Hall (Nevada County Association of Realtors), 336 Crown Point Circle, in Grass Valley until early 2020. Our meetings are now held on Zoom until we can meet in person again. Join our mailing list to get the Zoom link information.
Our meetings are now recorded. Videos of our past meetings are here on our YouTube Channel.
Chair - Scott Beesley
Vice Chair - Nick Johnson
Secretary - Virginia Gompertz
Technical Support/Communications - Jeff Peach
Steering Committee members
Coalition-Bylaws with Proposed Changes Aug2022.pdf
Coalition-Bylaws Final Approved Oct2021.pdf
Coalition Creation - Press Release December 2017
Chair and Vice Chair Job Description - Coalition-Position-Descriptions.pdf
Tuesday, September 6, 5:30pm
Registration is required. Click below to register now and receive the Zoom link:
September Agenda coming:
Who's Who of Frequent Coalition Speakers and Presenters
Acronym Key - What does THAT mean?
Are you a leader or committee member of a Firewise Community (FWC) looking for help in administering your FWC? This section of our website has information and resources to help you.
The Nevada County website hosts an interactive map showing the current NFPA-recognized Firewise USA® communities (FWC), plus those "In-Training" which are being developed and sponsored through the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County. You can use this interactive GIS map on that website to find out if you're already in a FWC. Read the directions for use below - there are no instructions on the map page.
Directions: Type your home address (or any other address) into the white box on the map and click 'enter'. This will locate and place a dot on the map showing the address location. Each FWC has a different background color - the colors are subtle and can be checked against the Legend to the left. By scrolling out SLOWLY, it will show the names of the FWC and its neighbors. If you scroll out further to the county level, only the colors are shown. Scroll IN from the address-dot level and the street name can be seen. "In Training" neighborhoods that are developing their FWC status and have an accepted map are identified with a uniform yellow background.
An alphabetical list of CERTIFIED FIREWISE COMMUNITIES and individual FWCommunity maps can be found on the Fire Safe Council website here: https://www.areyoufiresafe.com/programs/firewise-usa. If you have trouble locating the individual map for your Firewise Community, contact the Fire Safe Council to send a message to Pat Leach, the Firewise Communities Coordinator.
What is an "In Training" Firewise Community? These are neighborhoods that are developing the steps necessary to become a Firewise Community. Many are waiting for their Hazard Assessment to be performed and documented by a qualified fire expert, with funding obtained by the Fire Safe Council (there is no cost to the neighborhood itself). The Community then creates its own 1-to-2 page Action Plan based on the Assessment, and the Fire Safe Council registers the new Firewise Community with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Prior to certification, all "in training" communities are encouraged to act like a certified Firewise Community, have one or more representatives attend monthly Coalition meetings, etc.
[All documents on this site are safe to download. If your virus blocker prevents access, use our Ask A Question contact form to specify what documents you'd like and we'll email them to you directly.]
"Is There a Wildfire?" tells how to get earlier notice of a wildfire and how to quickly check wind direction to see if it's being pushed toward you. (1-page PDF)
Your Home Can Survive a Wildfire - Watch giant nozzles blow burning embers at mock "houses" in a monster testing facility. In this 13-minute video with great visuals, Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher with the USDA Forest Service, explains current research about how homes ignite during wildfires. After watching this, you will feel more confident that the action steps you take can help your home survive the impacts of flames and embers.
Wildfire Defensible Space: Zone Zero - 7-minute video about the most important defensible space zone, 0-to 5 feet around your house. See description below in the OUTSIDE category.
Two great sources for information about home hardening (what you need to do in and around your buildings):
How to Stay Informed During Wildfire Season One page for finding weather advisories, how to sign up for emergency alerts, and, during an ACTUAL EMERGENCY, how to stay updated and informed. Print and post it on your refrigerator!
Roadside Clearing Regulations: make your roads safe for firefighters to get IN and for you to get OUT. This unofficial one-page PDF with diagrams, created by the Coalition of Firewise Communities, tells you the requirements in the unincorporated County, City of Grass Valley and Nevada City, for clearing back from the sides of private roads. There are three times as many private roads in the County as there are public roads, and the property owners are responsible for meeting these requirements. See "Rules & Enforcement" for how to report violations of these roadside clearing regulations.
What do you do when your 100 feet of defensible space goes onto a neighbor's property? Or onto government land? What if your neighbor refuses to clear her property? The five-page document linked here, "What If Your 100 Feet of Defensible Space Goes Beyond Your Property Line?," tells you how to proceed under different scenarios. Read additional detail on our Rules & Enforcement page.
In addition to the above, check out these other great resources (many from past Coalition meetings).
Lists and Checklists:
Take the Advice of Firefighters:
Answer: A LOT! Visit the County's emergency preparedness website, ReadyNevadaCounty.org, for links to many great resources.
Is today a BURN DAY? Click here to check whether you can burn today in unincorporated Nevada County. Burning is always prohibited within city limits of Grass Valley and Nevada City.
To report hazardous vegetation on a property in unincorporated Nevada County (ideally AFTER you've already attempted to communicate with the owner), click here and scroll down to "Submit a Code Compliance Request." (Note that you must use Google Chrome to submit the request.) A Defensible Space Inspector will come out to determine if the property is in violation, while you remain anonymous. If you live within city limits of Grass Valley or Nevada City, see page 5 of the "What If Your 100 Feet etc." document linked in the next paragraph.
What do you do when your 100 feet of defensible space goes onto a neighbor's property? Or onto government land (city park, county open space, national forest, etc.)? Or what if your neighbor refuses to clear her property? The five-page document linked here, "What If Your 100 Feet of Defensible Space Goes Beyond Your Property Line?," tells you how to proceed under different scenarios, including whether structures (like your house) are involved, whether you are in city limits or in unincorporated county, and more. Step-by-step suggestions for trying to get your neighbors to clear their dangerous parcels are included, plus how to file a complaint that will bring out a County Defensible Space Inspector or a city code enforcement staffer.
Want to work on a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) parcel? Here's a BLM Defensible Space Permit Application to clear BLM land. See "What If Your 100 Feet etc." document above for when you need this.
What if TREE BRANCHES are an issue with your neighbor? (For example, a tree on your neighbor's property has huge branches that overhang your property and you consider them a danger or nuisance.) Below is The Definitive Guide to Tree Disputes in California, from the Hastings Law School (UC Berkeley) Environmental Law Journal, Winter 2015. See yellow highlighting on pages 116-119 and also 121, which states "Property owners should be aware that they might be liable for damage caused by falling trees in extreme weather events and tree owners should consult arborists to minimize potential liability."
This unofficial one-sheet PDF handout from the Coalition of Firewise Communities tells you the requirements, in the unincorporated County, City of Grass Valley and Nevada City, for clearing back from the sides of private roads. Diagrams help make it clear. There are three times as many private roads in the County as there are public roads, and the property owners are responsible for meeting these requirements.
To report Roadside Tree, Vegetation and Brush Concerns along County-maintained roads, click here and choose the link with the "Roadside Tree etc" name (& pine tree icon) under "Submit a Road Maintenance Request." To report problems on private roads, see first paragraph above.
Talking to your neighbors about defensible space - helpful PDF from Fire Safe Council with good tips on getting neighbors to buy into the idea of fire safety. Also see It's the Law! (pdf from Cascade Shores Firewise Committee)
The document described above, "What If Your 100 Feet of Defensible Space etc.", should answer most people's questions and concerns. But if you really want to get into the weeds (bad pun, sorry!), see below for details about local codes and ordinances.
The County of Nevada has a hazardous vegetation ordinance, entitled Nuisance Declared; Duty to Abate Hazardous Vegetation and Combustible Material (Click #7.4) which requires defensible space around habitable structures (100 feet) as well as along roadways 10 feet wide and 15 feet high) beyond the shoulder of roadways (both sides) that serve as primary ingress and egress routes. Here's the County Code for Private Driveway Construction Standards
California has state standard PRC 4291, but its requirements are incorporated into the Nevada County ordinance, so you do not need to consult state standards unless you really want to know exactly what they are. (The definitions of terms used in 4291 are at PRC 4211).
Nevada County Consolidated Fire District has standards for Fire Protection Water Supply Systems. If you want to install a tank for potential use by firefighters (not for personal, home or agricultural water), it must meet the standards.
If you live within the city limits of Grass Valley or Nevada City, the Nevada County vegetation ordinance does not apply to you. The specific weed abatement ordinances are below, but we strongly suggest you read "What If Your 100 Feet of Defensible Space etc.", described at the top of this page. It has a section on all the requirements that are applicable to city residents. These requirements must be met by May 1 of every year (since Mother Nature keeps coming back).
Go to https://library.municode.com/ca/grass_valley/codes/code_of_ordinances, then follow this path:
Link to all Nevada County Ordinances: http://qcode.us/codes/nevadacounty/
Link to all City of Grass Valley Ordinances: https://library.municode.com/ca/grass_valley/codes/code_of_ordinances
Link to all Nevada City Ordinances: https://library.municode.com/ca/nevada_city/codes/code_of_ordinances
We need all concerned citizens, and especially Firewise Community leaders, to attend Aug. 9, 2022 Board of Supervisors meeting, 1:30 pm at the Rood Center (Board Chambers) to request they put a revenue measure on the November ballot.
See this Fact Sheet 2-page PDF for a summary of the measure.
See this Powerpointwith colorful visuals explaining why and how this measure was developed.
Print out this “Yes on the Ballot Measure” sign (8 ½ x 11) to hold while sitting in your chair on August 9 at the Supervisors meeting.
Congrats to the volunteers who hauled about 70 cubic yards of garbage out of the Deer Creek watershed in early June 2022. Special shout-out to Lorraine Gervais, her husband Charlie Faber, and the agencies that came together to support this community action. Read the article and see the graphic photos here.
Lauren Drutz and her husband, private homeowners in the 6B & Friends Firewise Community, spent their own money to install a pair of underground water storage tanks which provide 5,000 gallons of water to help protect their home and their entire community. Check out the specs and costs, with color photos, in this 6-slide PDF.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. As Public Input to a draft State Route 49 Safety Assessment Report, Coalition vice chair Susan Rogers wrote and sent this letter (after receiving Coalition membership approval) to Caltrans on Dec. 4, 2020, calling for an updated vision of highway safety to include evacuation safety, and asking for aggressive roadside fuel reduction across all state highways in Nevada County.
We received this Jan. 15, 2021 response from them. It sounds like they heard us and they are moving in the right direction. But as we know, it's a big bureaucracy and they have a lot on their plate. So, the more people who let them know that "speed is of the essence," the greater chance that they will apply staff and financial resources in a more timely manner. You can make your voice heard by writing to our local District 3 Director for Caltrans: Amarjeet S. Benipal, District 3 Director, Caltrans, 703 B Street, Marysville, CA 95901.
Written letters have the most impact because they demonstrate the writer's commitment to the issue. But if email is what you can do:
Email: email@example.com (This is the Public Information Officer. Ask that your email be forwarded to Mr. Benipal). Please also copy your letter to the head of Caltrans statewide:
Toks Omishakin, Director, Caltrans, P.O. Box 942873, Sacramento, CA
Thank you to Susan, and thanks everyone else who will also send their letters to support this effort.
Background information specific to the SR 49 Safety Assessment Report:
Here is Caltrans' article on the project: https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-3/d3-projects/d3-sr-49-safety-assessment.
Here is the entire Draft Safety Assessment Report: https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/
There is now a permit process to help landowners pursue clearing on adjacent land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (a federal agency). Thanks to the advocacy of Bob Long, chair of the Sherwood Forest Firewise Community, BLM (which has a large piece of land on the back side of numerous Sherwood Forest homeowners' properties) created this Defensible Space Permit Application which you can download here. Their phone number is not on the application; it's (916) 941-3101.
Should BLM should do this work themselves? Sure, but they are greatly understaffed and underfunded. Contact your local Congressperson to ask for increased federal funding of BLM for fire safety.
Insurers Currently Offering Discounts (links to California Dept. of Insurance)
The March 2021 Coalition meeting was on the topic of insurance, with three speakers giving background from a state, county and local (Fire Safe Council) perspective. A 53-minute edited video of just those speakers can be viewed here.
Many local residents are facing cancellation of their homeowners insurance. Unfortunately, almost nothing can be done at the local level to help with this problem. This page provides a few resources that might help you figure out your next steps.
You may not know that all local insurance agencies, even those affiliated with the same national brand, are independently owned brokerages that have different relationships with different Surplus Line Insurers (see definition of that below). This means that if one Allstate (for example) agent can't help you, another Allstate agent might be able to. You have to make a lot of phone calls. Call around.
What does "Surplus Lines" mean? Often called the “safety valve” of the insurance industry, surplus lines insurers (which are usually non-admitted carriers, see below) fill the need for coverage in the marketplace by insuring those risks that are declined by the standard underwriting and pricing processes of admitted insurance carriers.
Website of the California Fair Plan - insurer of last resort.
Watch this video of the town hall held in Grass Valley on August 23, 2019 with state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, which has helpful information for those who are being non-renewed. To avoid local politician's opening remarks, skip to the 6-minute mark to start watching.
As of early 2021, Commissioner Lara has made progress in providing resources relative to wildfire and insurance concerns. Here is the website page for Wildfire Response and Readiness on the California Department of Insurance website.
The following relates to Coalition activities only -- not helpful for individual residents
Insurance Questionnaire PDF For Coalition Survey
Insurance Questionnaire Word (Type directly onto document and return to Bob as attachment)
Fire Threat Areas - Map from the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
Which Fire Agency Provides Protection Services for Your Neighborhood? - Check the map here
Nevada County fire agencies have Joint Services agreements with each other and work closely together to respond to all fire emergencies. However, just ONE of them is officially responsible for your neighborhood. Click the map link above to see which one is yours. You need to know which agency this is, because they are the fire officials who you, as a Firewise Community representative, will be working with on activities to ensure fire safety in your community (for example, with the 30-Day Courtesy Notice to owners of non-compliant properties).
Water Tanks for Fire Suppression:
Nevada County Consolidated Fire District has standards for Fire Protection Water Supply Systems. If you want to install a tank for potential use by firefighters (not for personal, home or agricultural water), it must meet the standards. The April 2022 Powerpoint from Lauren Drutz with photos and details of her tanks is here as a PDF..
Here are the County of Nevada Fire Safe Standards for an Emergency Water Storage Tank.pdf This is the document discussed by Cal Fire's Jim Matthias in April 2022.
Nevada County Fire Districts
Grass Valley Fire Department
Higgins Fire Protection District
Nevada City Fire Department
Nevada County Consolidated Fire District
North San Juan Fire District
Ophir Hill Fire Protection District
Peardale-Chicago Park Fire Department
Penn Valley Fire Protection District
Rough & Ready Fire Department
Truckee Fire Protection District
The Nevada County Coalition of Firewise Communities (the website where you are now) and the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County are two separate, not-related organizations. Visit our Coalition of Firewise Communities' About Us page for information about our all-volunteer organization, which has no staff, no dues and no budget.
The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County is a public benefit, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with paid full-time and part-time staff and a board of directors. It was formed in 1998 and is funded by grants, memberships, donations and fee-for-service programs.
The Fire Safe Council coordinates the formation of individual Firewise Communities (FWCs), and manages their certification (and re-certification) through the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Because the Coalition has no funding or budget, the Fire Safe Council makes its online Zoom account available for Coalition use and pays for the Coalition's website hosting and meeting space rental.
Coalition monthly meeting agendas always include a report from a representative of the Fire Safe Council, typically the executive director, the FWC coordinator, or the board chair.
The Fire Safe Council's office has a wealth of literature from various fire agencies that will help homeowners on virtually any wild-fire related topic. They offer a chipping program, a Special Needs Assistance Program for low-income elderly and disabled, and other services. At their website, you can request a free visit from a trained, volunteer Defensible Space Advisor who will come to your property and help you learn what needs to be done to reduce risks around your home.
Visit the Fire Safe Council website. The Council's phone number is (530) 272-1122, and their address is 143 B Spring Hill Drive, Suite 13, Grass Valley, CA 95945. Check their website for office hours. Park in the spaces marked with white letters "OCS" at the edge of the lot facing Spring Hill Drive. Many spaces directly in front of their office are marked/reserved for other businesses .
Official Sites of public and private wildfire safety organizations, with helpful information
To get on the email list for upcoming UC Continuing Education events about prescribed burns, go to:
https://ucanr.edu/sites/forestry/Forest_Vegetation_Management/Prescribed_Fire/. Click “Contact”, then “Join Email List” to sign up for notices of training and events.
To watch the 2 recorded UCCE sponsored prescribed burning webinars from 2020, go to: Prescribed fire webinar series in Mariposa county - http://cemariposa.ucanr.edu/
That webinar connects to these printed resources:
To get on the contact list for our local Yuba Bear Burn Cooperative contact Cordi Craig at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Controlled burns are very much key to the future of forest health and fire mitigation efforts in our area, according to many experts. First-timers should probably start on a small scale in the range of 5 to 50 acres with you and your surrounding neighbors. Larger-scale projects in the area of 50 to 500 acres have funding opportunities if you are willing to be a community organizer. Basically, you organize the work and the experts come in and teach how to manage the burns.
Sign up for Alerts about when PGE will turn off power. Register for power shut off notifications here.
PG&E Community Wildfire Safety Program - Information on the PGE - COMMUNITY WILDFIRE SAFETY PROGRAM - Working together to create fire defense zones around power lines.
Contact - Joanne Drummond, local PG&E representative for the Community Wildfire Safety Program
Vegetation Program Manager, CEMA - Fuels Reduction
Joanne.Drummond@pge.com | Office (530) 889-3166 | Cell (530) 510-1064
Articles about PGE
This page has information and resources for helping the leaders of individual Firewise Communities (FWCs) administer their local FWC. If anyone in your leadership team has a Facebook profile, have them join our Coalition Facebook group here, where we share good ideas, questions and answers.
This website is for you and your FWC members. You can use anything here to help the residents in your neighborhood(s) know what to do and how to do it. If a topic is missing that you want to cover, let us know and we'll consider adding it. Our Education Resources section has several excellent one-page PDFs you can print and distribute (or link to in your emails to your members). In particular, be sure everyone has a copy of Early Warning Alerts-Weather & How to Stay Informed.
Non-compliant residents in your FWC:
Is there a "problem" property in your FWC, a neighbor (or absentee owner) who doesn't comply with required county abatement ordinances? Try using the resources here for implementing a 30-Day Courtesy Notice Program (download and read the documents linked below). This has been successfully used in several Firewise Communities to convince owners of "dirty" properties that they need to come into compliance with the law.
Making the 30-Day Notice work.docx guidelines for how to implement the program (MS Word docx)
30-Day Clean-Up Courtesy Notice template - vacant lot.docx (MS Word docx)
Everyday Communication with your FWC Residents
-- Get customizable blank letterhead with the NFPA Firewise logo on it here in Microsoft Word docx format.. Insert your own FWC name in the header where you see "Foxwood - Slate Creek." If you can't open a Word doc, you have two options: 1) download this PDF with the NFPA logo but no FWC name above the black line, OR 2) we can provide you with a PDF that has both your FWC name and NFPA logo on it. You can print the PDF, place in your printer paper tray, then format your letter to start underneath the header. Use the Ask A Question contact form to request this, directed to Susan Rogers. Be sure to specify the name of your Firewise Community.
-- Here's a great flyer from Deer Creek South Side (designed by Lorraine Gervais) which we hope to make available as a template that other FWCs can adapt. They also have a free website on Google -- check it out here.
-- Lake Wildwood FWC has provided us with customizable Microsoft Word docxs based on materials they use for Forming Neighborhood Groups. Here are a sample Meeting Invitation, Contact Roster, Coordinators Agenda, and Participants Agenda, which you can download and tweak as needed to help set up and lead meetings in your own FWC. Thank you LWW! (If you can't open a Word docx, see above for contacting Susan Rogers to get PDFs.)
-- If your FWC maintains your own "firewise" website or Facebook page, scroll to the end of this page to see Guidelines we hope you'll follow.
-- How Do Other FWCs Communicate With Their Residents? - a PDF summary of 36 Firewise communitiesthat responded to a survey asking about the methods, frequency and effectiveness of communicating firewise messages to their member households, as of November 2019. Gives you a good idea of what others are doing (email, newsletters, etc.) and the challenges they are facing. Names of the rep who filled out the survey are included, but contact information is not provided for privacy reasons. If you want to contact a rep, please contact the Fire Safe Council to send a message to Pat Leach, the Firewise Communities Coordinator. Our Coalition does not have access to a list of all the FWC reps.
Preparing for EMERGENCY Communication with your FWC Residents
Two Coalition meetings have been held on emergency communications to your own residents in case of wildfire (phone tree, short-wave radio, etc.). Videos of both meetings are available: click SHOW MORE in the description to see hotlinks that allow you to jump directly to the program speakers. Our May 2021 recording is here, and the March 2022 video here.
The Mendocino County Fire Safe Council has also worked on this issue. Here is their website page on Neighborhood Emergency Communications, with information on two low-cost group dialing services and one FWC that has found VHF radio to be their long-term solution. The latter has a very detailed document you can download entitled, "Neighborhood Communications in Mountainous Terrain" that gives their entire history of comparing various options.
-- Healthy Forest Funding & More -- how the Greenhorn FWC got grant funding from the County of Nevada's FEMA Resiliency funds for installation of two water tanks for fire response. Excellent Powerpoint (converted to PDF) by Dianne Marshall, presented at the December 2021 Coalition meeting.
-- Shovel Ready Projects - Checklist. Gives you a basic idea of what's needed if your neighborhood has a large project that requires funding to get it done. "Shovel ready" means that if it were to get funded, you could almost immediately put a shovel in the ground and start, because you've already figured out (and obtained) the permits or permissions needed, gotten bids from contractors, etc. Helps document your project so that it can be "bundled" with other projects in grant-funding proposals by the Fire Safe Council.
Common Findings From Firewise Hazard Assessments Fire scientist Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman described the many problems she sees when she evaluates in-training Firewise Communities for their NFPA certification. Does your FWC have these problems? (this is a Powerpoint presented at October 2019 Coalition meeting (with photos) converted to PDF)
Enforcement Document Action Plan - Formally adopted by coalition vote, February 27, 2018
Evacuation Document Action Plan - Formally adopted by coalition vote, February 27, 2018
Emergency Alert Buddy System Word (For editing to accommodate your FWC)
Emergency Alert Buddy System PowerPoint - Virginia Gompertz - Lake Wildwood