NEVADA CITY, Calif. February 13, 2024 - Nevada City’s tax measure C is about the wildfire safety of Nevada City, and because wildfire knows no boundaries, it supports all of the surrounding areas near the city limits. It deserves passage because the measure crafts a plan of action encouraging a Community-centric approach to educate and prepare for wildfire. We have breathed in the smoke from burning neighborhoods of Californians decimated by wind-driven Megafires. Paradise to Santa Rosa, Greenville to Middletown, the current dryer, hotter and windier California climate regime poses the question, are we next?

CAL FIRE and the insurance industry thinks we are.

I have served the public as a Wildfire Captain and Prevention Educator my adult life. From Alaska to Florida, Texas to California, I’ve worked with Wildfire incident management teams to ease the panic and fear from people’s worst nightmare. Wildfire pushed by the wind and topography through fuels. Those burning fuels now are our homes and communities. We can only afford a limited number of paid fire personnel, new equipment, and aircraft to engage wildfire. But we can tap into a larger force of Community Firewise soldiers. By adopting a fire prevention strategy, communities are surviving wildfires. All firefighters support a Plan of strategy to mitigate wildfire.

Fire suppression is a failure of fire prevention.

Firefighters need the public to take action before the fire arrives, to defend neighborhoods. Cleared properties with good access allows them to defend your structure. When properties are not treated before a wildfire arrives, then it’s unsafe for firefighters to engage. It starts with individual awareness of home hardening protection and natural fuel reduction before a wildfire event and continues with final preparations of structure defense. Closing windows, placing ladders to the roof, hose lines near water sources. Lastly your exit strategy to evacuate safely when directed, especially for the very young, very old, and collecting your animals, whose evacuation needs require an early exit to their safety zone.

Evacuation success is the number one concern of the local public. An unexpected wind-driven wildfire overtaking a community is going to be a challenge for any safe and orderly evacuation. Combine darkness with smoke and the lack of visibility, a Megafire will add to dangerous vehicle traffic, and blocked highway situations. Education from a community approach with knowledge of when, where and how to evacuate remains the anxious challenge facing folks. The County-wide Zone and Notification system tells us when to evacuate. The how and where awareness remains up to us.

Wildfire safety is more than adding firefighters and engines to the equation. The public’s ownership in preparing a plan to mitigate wildfire is both an individual effort and Community response. The Fire Prevention Strategy attached to Measure C has many stewards behind this effort. The Fire Safety Advisory Committee and the Nevada City Council have crafted this plan. Many of those folks are ex-professional firefighters. They realize it takes a group effort to prepare for this challenge. The measure is fair. It levies 50 cents on every 100 dollars of sales within the city limits. The money collected goes ONLY to the Prevention plan. It has an independent public board to oversee spending, and has a sunset of 5 years. Look what Measure T has accomplished for Truckee. They have similar challenges and a Prevention strategy funded by taxes. Truckee’s measure is funded by a parcel tax levied on all private property. Nevada City’s is a sales tax. A 2/3 YES vote is required on Measure C.

We are living on a planet born in fire and surrounded by fuel. The winds pushed by a lengthening summer are constant. Let’s expand prevention efforts to supplement our wildfire responders. It’s a proven strategy in a partnership for success.

Terry Anderson lives in Nevada City