- Story and photos courtesy Sierra County Planning Director Tim Beals
The County Road Department and the community of Pike were recently the beneficiaries of a grant project funded by CalFire and the California Conservation Corps using the State responsibility Area (SRA) fees collected annually by the State from owners of single family residences. The project involved a multiple week right of way clearing project for the Ridge Road from State Highway 49 through the community of Pike. The primary labor source came from the California Conservation Corps which provides a crew of 10 to 14 workers for seven consecutive days which is commonly referred to as a “spike camp crew”. The project was funded for five consecutive weeks and the spike camp crews set up camp within the boundaries of the Alleghany Road Maintenance Yard during their stay. The clearing and fire defense created by the removal of brush, dead and dying vegetation, and other fire fuels is now a noticeable improvement within the community. Supervisor Lee Adams was quick to express his appreciation for the California Conservation Corps and CalFire and complimented the community for its cooperation and patience during the project. He also acknowledged the involvement of the County Road Department, of Bryan Davey for his work in making the project occur, and of Ned Cusato for his on-site coordination.
One week after completion of the Ridge Road Project CalFire contacted the County advising of the possibility of additional grant funding and asking if a small project was shovel-ready that could use a two week commitment of Conservation Corps spike camp crews. After a brief review between County staff and the County Fire Safe Council, a fuel break at the south end of Sierra Brooks Subdivision was quickly identified as the highest priority. The Board of Supervisors approved the project at its meeting of June 7 clearing the path for project implementation. The project selected was a hand treatment fuel break and clearance of an evacuation route for the homes located at the south end of the subdivision. This area is bordered by California Wildlife Management Area lands, some federal lands, and a large number of private parcels all which have experienced a significant amount of vegetative growth in the years following the Cottonwood Fire. The site was qualified as an SRA project (State Responsibility Area) and plans began to prepare the site for the project. Right of entry documents and property owner coordination was accomplished by Victoria Fisher, Executive Director of the County’s Fire Safe Council. Project application documents, budget support, nesting bird surveys required as a condition of any such project, and obtaining all necessary approvals was accomplished through the efforts of Bryan Davey of the County Road Department. The Conservation Corps arrived on Wednesday, June 8 setting up camp within the Sierra Brooks RV Campground which was graciously offered by the Sierra Brooks Homeowners Association. The project commenced on the following morning with a fourteen person crew cutting, chipping, and piling surface fuels, under-story fuels, small trees, and dead and down materials. The County Road Department maintenance crew from Sierra Valley assisted with clearing and processing activities and hauled materials off-site to the County landfill. The second and final week commences on June 16 with a second spike camp crew hoping to complete the project as planned. The areas within 100 feet of the existing homes could not be cleared as this specific area is the sole responsibility of the property owners with grant guidelines prohibiting SRA funding for use within this zone. It is hoped that the property owners will follow up with this clearing to make their properties fire safe, attaining the required clearances. Tim Beals, County Public Works Director stated that this project was put together quite quickly and the combined efforts of Bryan Davey, Victoria Fisher, Ranger Quentin Youngblood and the Sierraville Ranger District, Terri Weist-State Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Supervisors Paul Roen and Scott Schlefstein, Dennis Marsh and the valley road maintenance crew and of course the support and commitment from CalFire and the California Conservation Corps were entirely responsible for making this project happen.