Washington Hill Fire Coalition
Our coalition is saying a sad but fond goodbye to Josiah and Kate... also changing structure to promote streamlined progress. PLEASE attend the next meeting, Sunday November 10, 2019 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM at 99 Leahy Road.
Home Insurance Town Hall with State Insurance Commissioner. Thursday, Aug 22, 6PM at Foothill Events Center. 400 Idaho Maryland Rd near Hills Flat. This event was organized in response to Nevada County’s home insurance crisis. “In addition to learning about available resources and actions taken both locally and at the state level, there will be a moderated discussion for attendees get answers to their questions. Residents are asked to submit their questions in advance online at www.MyNevadaCounty.com/InsuranceQuestions.”
County tested CodeRed Emergency Alert system on Aug 15 at 10AM. In our neighborhood, most alerts came in within the first 15 minutes, some took almost an hour to arrive, and some people never got alerts. If evacuation orders ever come through Code Red, please spread the word as soon as you know.
Jill Rd safer for pedestrians and evacuation. The road used to be choked with ladder fuels and blackberry vines. About half was on public land, but the city passed their responsibility to neighboring landowners. We cleared ladder fuels like dead manzanita & invasive blackberries, then ~15 of us hauled 5 truck loads to the city’s free green waste drop off in late July. Big thanks to everyone who came together to make that happen, and Doris, Volker & Sandy for clearing other sections! We’re still picking at a few sections, but have over 90% of hazards removed.
Firewise community update. We're a firewise community-in-training, and working towards our full certification, which can help with home insurance (among other things). We submitted the next round of paperwork. Next steps: 1) Outreach to southern neighbors and finalize boundaries. 2) Estimate the value of our fire safety work (hours spent on workdays, meetings and our own properties, costs of contractors, etc). 3) Get a fire risk report from a fire scientist, then write a 1-2 page plan to reduce risks. Options for the report: a) Wait for NV county Firesafe council to get grants to cover costs (1+ year wait). b) Fundraise $1,200-1,500 to cover costs & have their fire scientist do it over winter. c) Get permission for a different fire scientist to do it sooner.
Another neighbor had insurance cancelled. Stephanie reports she got a cancellation notice from her home insurance agency (Farmer's) where she was a customer for 15 years. This is the third cancellation notice we know of in our neighborhood. Stephanie is planning to push back, going through the Wildfire Home Assessment Checklist with her agent, and noting our community work at fire risk reduction. Our neighbors have also assembled a list of companies that are still writing policies: AAA, State Farm, USAA. Kate shared a facebook group devoted to finding affordable home insurance in Nevada County, and a guide for getting help if you get dropped by your Insurer.
Grass Valley's Free Green Waste Drop-off was very popular. The lines were 1/2 a mile long before the gates opened. We ended up dropping off 5 pickup loads (mostly dead manzanita) cleared from Jill Rd.
Grant & Low-interest loan to help with fire prep. Thanks to Kate for finding this USDA rural development program for home renovations like wildfire mitigation, 5’ no-fuel zone conversion for hardscaping, etc. $40k loans for low income households & $10k grants to seniors over 62. bit.ly/2JQe3W3
San Francisco Chronicle. Our work was featured on the front page on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Outreach & status with large land owners:
- South Yuba Club: They joined our coalition, want to be part of a firewise community, share our concerns about accidental ignitions on their property spreading quickly, and asked to meet with Kate for advice. They are working with the city on fuel reduction on the "designated open area" of their land, but don’t have immediate plans to build a fence to reduce foot traffic. Thanks to Julia & Ginger for doing outreach!
- Berryhill Apartments: First met with them April 19. Local managers seem friendly and reasonable, but out-of-state corporate owner controls the budget and hasn't authorized work on the green space's fire hazards. Options: a) Hope city tells out of state corporation to meet fire safety codes, b) Do work ourselves with local managers’ permission. The managers brainstormed about shifting the green space's ownership to a land trust, but that's probably a long-term long-shot.
- Hilltop Commons: Finished their scheduled weed abatement in June. Haven't addressed their back corner or various patches of ladder fuels.
- Unimproved Eureka lot: Ginger & Julia successfully reached with the out-of-town owners. Owners cut weeds on their borders, but didn’t clear the full 30 foot perimeter. No treatment of their largest fire hazards of blackberry vines and other ladder fuels growing into trees on the interior of their lot.
- Wilkie property on west end of Hill St: After chatting, their realtor hired a crew to cut back weeds and completed work by mid-July.
PGE Tree updates: Big thanks to Beth for 2 months of doggedly pursuing this. PGE forgot they had contractors mark hazardous trees in our neighborhood, but started scheduling removal & permits. They removed a few large hazard trees that were leaning over or growing into power lines. More are marked for trimming or removal, but we don't know a date for the work.
Evacuation route maintenance:
- Jill Rd is looking great. We're still picking at a few small patches, but it's 20 times better than it used to be.
- Thanks to Cheryl for clearing bushes back from the fire hydrant on the big curve at N Auburn.
- No progress reports on other hazardous sections of Hill, Broadview, Washington or Auburn.
- Concerns are: 1) emergency vehicle access (13.5' vertical clearance in roads & shoulders), 2) ladder fuels that give fire a quick path from the ground into tree canopies, 3) dense hot-burning plants and dead branches in the 3’ shoulders and growing over the pavement; those would pose hazards during evacuation if they were on fire.
- Sign up for CodeRed, the county's emergency alert system. They will call, text and/or email alerts & evacuation orders. Ways to sign up:
- Use the online signup
- Text READYNEVADACOUNTY to 99411
- Call 211 or 1-833-DIAL211 from a local number (503 area code)
- Get an emergency weather radio with battery backup
- Nice features: built-in emergency alerts (automatically sounds an alarm when an emergency alert is broadcast), flashlight, solar+crank+usb charger, phone charger
- Recommendations from WireCutter review:
- In the event of an actual evacuation alert, please blow a boat horn, bang on neighbor's doors, or honk your horn as you drive out.
- More details are in our Neighborhood Evacuation Fact Sheet
Fire defense Information
- Wildfire Home Assessment Checklist: 11 page guide of best-available science from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
- Fire Defense in Grass Valley, CA: Our summary of city requirements, best-practices & resources
- Neighborhood Evacuation for Washington Hill: Information specific to our neighborhood & links to official evacuation guides
- Nevada County Fire Season Guide 2019-2020
- How to prepare your home for wildfires: 1 page fact sheet
- Protecting from Ember Ignition in attics & crawl spaces: 1 page fact sheet
- Fire resistant landscaping & improvements: Firewise Poster
- CalFire Ready, Set, Go brochures www.readyforwildfire.org
- Nevada County Fire Safe Council; low cost & free services, advice & info. areyoufiresafe.com
- Low-cost on-site chipping program
- They used to offer free help with vegetation management for low-income elders and handicapped folks, but have run out of funds for now.
- USDA Rural Development Loans & Grants
- "...to repair, improve or modernize homes or remove health and safety hazards." Can be used for things like fire-resistant roofs, windows, siding, and work in the 5' no-fuel zone around your house.
- Up to $40,000 loan at 1% interest for low-income homeowners who can't get affordable loans elsewhere
- Up to $10,000 in grants for folks 62 years and older who can't repay a repair loan
- Available for both Grass Valley & county residents
- For more info, go online or call (530) 885-6505
- Natural Resources Conservation Services's Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) can cost-share on vegetation management for fire safety on larger parcels (in town or the county). For more information or to apply, visit their website, or call the local NRCS office at (530) 798-5533
- Insurance questions? Get advice from United Policyholders, a nonprofit that has helped many California residents who lost insurance or whose homes burned in recent wildfires. https://www.uphelp.org/resources/state-by-state/California
- Homeless concerns? Call Hospitality House Outreach Case Manager Joe Naake at 530 798-9817
- Want to know who owns a property? Use Nevada County's online property maps.
- Want easier gutter cleaning? Consider a metal micromesh gutter guard that will block pine needles. We used LeafsOut which cost about $430 in materials. A bunch of companies sell similar products.
- Green waste bins are a cheap and convenient way to keep up with yard waste. Make a habit of filling it up every 2 weeks to maximize savings. Don't have one? Call Waste Management at (530) 274-3090. Their largest size (96 gallons) costs $10.62 per month, and smaller sizes are even cheaper.
We are a newly-formed community group in Grass Valley, California, in the Washington/Hill area. Spurred by the disastrous fire seasons of 2017 and 2018, we organized this group to discuss fire safety concerns and find solutions together to reduce our collective risk.
Our topics so far:
- Talking to each other and finding common ground
- Signing up for Evacuation alerts
- Identifying & maintaining evacuation routes
- Understanding city codes
- Establishing defensible space and making our homes fire resistant
- Community workdays
- Finding resources to help each other
- Educating ourselves how to most effectively reduce fire risks
- Talking & working with local officials
- Front page SF Chronicle article highlighting our work, Sunday June 30, 2019
- Highlights from June 20, 2019 meeting (plus flyer for next meeting)
- Highlights from May 29, 2019 meeting (plus flyer for next meeting)
- Flyer for Community Wildfire Preparation Day, May 4, 2019
- We won a grant for community green waste haul-off.
- Dozens of us worked to haul off 65 cubic yards of curbside green waste from 18 properties, and assist 3 elderly or physically handicapped community members with their properties.
- Relaxed afterwards with pizza and potluck.
- Highlights from April 17, 2019 meeting (plus flyer for next meeting)
- Highlights from March 17, 2019 meeting (plus flyer for next meeting)
- Highlights from Feb 10, 2019 meeting (plus flyer for next meeting)
- Highlights from Dec 20, 2018 meeting (plus flyer for next meeting)
- Sign up to get our newsletters and join coalition: WaHillFireNews@gmail.com
- To donate to our clean up fire fuel efforts, make donation on Paypal to: WaHillFire@gmail.com
We're located just north of downtown Grass Valley. This map shows our current boundaries. We may expand to the south, depending on neighbors' interest and how much energy we have for outreach.