In the face of above-normal fire potential and what has been identified as “acute and flammable fuel anomalies” across the Tahoe National Forest following the December 2021 winter storm, Nevada County was excited to learn this week that funding has been approved for the Woodpecker Ravine Shaded Fuel Break project. The $2.1 million award from CAL FIRE’s Wildfire Prevention grants program will support much-needed selective thinning in an area directly above the River Fire burn scar and flanked by two critical evacuation corridors – State Highway 49 to the east and State Highway 174 to the north.
Woodpecker Ravine is one of several shaded fuel breaks that have been identified by CAL FIRE and local fire leadership as a priority for Western Nevada County. Roughly bounded by Rattlesnake, Lower Colfax, and Mount Olive Roads, the area has numerous homes located in the wildland urban interface (WUI). Furthermore, the ecology and topography of the project area, notably its steep drainage and dense vegetation, make it a key location for fuels treatment. Not only will the project provide protection to the over 700 homes in the treatment zone, but it will create a location where wildfire could be stopped before progressing toward Empire Mine State Historic Park and downtown Grass Valley.
“We are very excited to have an additional shaded fuel break in our community. This project is very close to the River Fire burn scar and will provide an added measure of security to Grass Valley and Alta Sierra residents,” said Nevada County District II Supervisor Ed Scofield.
The project will include necessary environmental permitting in addition to on-the-ground vegetation thinning comprised of hand-cut and chip and mastication. 410 acres have been identified as the priority treatment area while an additional 176 acres will be treated if time and funds permit. The Woodpecker Ravine project will focus on primary and secondary evacuation routes in the area, in addition to select strategic ridgelines in order to tie road system arteries into a wildfire defense zone.
Ideally, the shaded fuel break will be just one aspect of a multifaceted project focused on Woodpecker Ravine that will serve as a regional model for wildfire resilience. Last year, the County of Nevada applied for a $43 million grant through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program that includes defensible space treatments, home hardening, and education in addition to the shaded fuel break.
“We are grateful to CAL FIRE for their continued support of these important projects,” said Office of Emergency Services Program Manager Paul Cummings. “Vegetation abatement is an important tool in our kit, but it requires ongoing maintenance to be effective. We continue to see a need for long-term sustainable funding to address the critical needs in our community.”
The announcement of funds for Woodpecker Ravine comes close on the heels of recent news that 600 acres of the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone Phase 2 project will receive treatment via Congressionally Designated funds. Phase 1 of the Ponderosa Project, funded by CAL FIRE, wrapped up in March of this year. An additional key fuel break project funded by CAL FIRE, the South County Shaded Fuel Break near Alta Sierra, will be ramping up in the coming months.
“We would like to thank CAL FIRE for funding this strategically important fuel break and we look forward to collaborating with residents to make these neighborhoods more fire safe,” says District I Supervisor Heidi Hall.