On Tuesday, September 11th, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on open fire along the South Yuba River Corridor as a pilot program. After 2017’s October Fires in Nevada County, it is a top Board priority to implement existing County policies and programs to reduce the risk of wildfire and the effects of wildfire on life, property, and the environment, as well as explore other ways to reduce the threat and damage from wildfires.
The program will be implemented immediately and go through the end of CAL FIRE’s declared fire season in 2018, and start again the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend through the end of CAL FIRE’s declared fire season in 2019. Specifically, the Urgency Ordinance prohibits open fire on private property within a quarter mile on each side of the ordinary high mark of the South Yuba River in Nevada County from where the river meets with Kentucky Creek below Bridgeport to Lang’s Crossing, stretching across 39 miles.
The Urgency Ordinance includes four exceptions to allow for reasonable and responsible summer activities, like having barbecues, but with some safety restrictions. Small recreational fires in organized campgrounds with the proper clearance are permitted, and small recreational fires in permanent fire pits or rings no larger than 5 feet in diameter that are within 30 feet of a designated water system, not including the river, but that are at least 25’ away from any combustible structure that include the proper clearance are permitted as well. Barbecues are also permitted so as long as they are within 30 feet of a designated water system and have the proper clearance around them as well. Allowed recreational or cooking fires not in a designated recreational site must be on an improved parcel with an occupying resident or property owner present on the property. Lastly, the Urgency Ordinance also provided an exception for smoking, so as long as it is inside, in a vehicle or in an area that is cleared of all non-structural, flammable material by a minimum of 5 feet.
The South Yuba River is designated as a State Wild and Scenic River that contains extraordinary scenic, recreation, fishery, and wildlife values of statewide significance that deserve to be preserved and protected in their free-flowing state. With an estimated 800,000 people visiting the South Yuba River each year, the hazards of a human-caused fire warrant the consideration of preventative actions. As a way to prevent the extreme fire danger in the area, the Urgency Ordinance will implement precautionary measures to prevent and mitigate the impacts of open fires. The Urgency Ordinance was reviewed and recommended by the Yuba River Public Safety Cohort, a multi-agency workgroup that includes Federal, State and local agencies and departments, and makes public policies consistent between public lands and private lands on prohibition of open fire.