Nevada County Supervisors Hank Weston and Nate Beason announced that CAL FIRE will not be moving staff for one of two wildfire initial attack engines from Nevada City Station 20 to Carnelian Bay in Placer County this fire season.
The Supervisors had learned in April about CAL FIRE’s plans to move the initial attack engine staff, which would leave the fire engine itself basically sitting idle at the station with no staff to operate it unless backfilled with overtime personnel.
The planned move was a result of a change in Direct Protection Authority (DPA) from Federal to State for the State Responsibility Area (SRA) lands around the lake, and in portions of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows; approximately 30,000 acres. Two years ago, Governor Schwarzenegger authored an executive order temporarily funding two engines—one on the north side in Placer County and one on the south side in El Dorado County. Then last year, staffing for the engines was not funded, allegedly due to budget constraints. CAL FIRE decided to move the Nevada City engine staff to Placer County to serve the northern area, about 17,000 acres, for this fire season with the anticipation that a Budget Change proposal would fund the Tahoe engine staff next year and the Station 20 staff will return to Nevada City.
Supervisors Beason (whose District includes Nevada City) and Weston, who spent 45 years in fire service including as Nevada/Yuba/Placer Unit Chief and Nevada County Fire Marshal; found the news troubling for two key reasons: (1) the staff was being taken from an extremely high fire danger area as we are entering a potentially dangerous fire season, and (2) there was no prior community notification, pre-briefing or other open public communication about this decision.
On April 9, 2013 the Supervisors jointly brought an agenda item forward asking for approval of a letter to CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott
opposing the relocation of resources. On May 21, Assemblyman Brian Dahle, who was copied on the letter, arranged a meeting between himself, Director Pimlott and Supervisor Weston to discuss Nevada County’s concerns. On Friday, May 31, the Supervisors learned that CAL FIRE was using the staff from Foresthill instead of Nevada City.
In expressing his gratitude, Supervisor Weston noted, “I do not believe any initial attack engines should be unstaffed with the type of fire season we are facing. This is why we recommended that CAL FIRE use its Emergency Fund up front to help keep all initial attack engines staffed as the most reasonable solution."