Meeting Summary

Humboldt County Fire Safe Council

December 16, 2002


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Members Attending
Members Absent
Public & Agency Attendance
FSC Coordinator
Call to Order
MFP Overview & Scope of Work
Other Overviews
Goals & Objectives
Comments
Other Discussion
Risk Assessment
Chairperson
Next Meeting

The initial meeting of the Humboldt County Fire Safe Council (FSC) was held on December 16, 2002, from 2:00 P.M. to 5:20 P.M., at the U.S. Forest Service Six Rivers National Forest conference room, 1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka, California. The Fire Safe Council has been appointed by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to oversee the preparation of the County Master Fire Protection Plan.

Fire Safe Council Members Attending:

Fire Safe Council Members Absent:

Public and Agency Representatives Attending:

Fire Safe Council Coordinator / Fire Master Plan Consultant

Call to Order and Introductions

The meeting was called to order at 2:00 P.M. by the Humboldt County Representative (Kirk Gothier), and started with self introductions. Kirk welcomed everyone and stated that the County received a U.S. Forest Service grant to fund the preparation of a countywide Master Fire Protection Plan. The Fire Safe Council was created to oversee that process. The Fire Plan will be incorporated into the County’s General Plan Update. The Consulting firm of Planwest Partners has been retained to prepare the plan and coordinate Fire Safe Council Activities. Kirk introduced the Fire Safe Council Coordinator, George Williamson, Principal Planner with Planwest Partners.

The Fire Safe Council Coordinator reviewed the meeting agenda, starting with the role of the Humboldt County Fire Safe Council (FSC), and the role of Planwest Partners as plan preparer and FSC coordinator. Planwest Partners was hired by Humboldt County to assist with the implementation of the FSC and the preparation of Fire Plan. The purpose of the FSC is to oversee the preparation of the Fire Plan and to inform and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The FSC shall serve as a forum to share fire-safety related information, assess fire risk, set fire protection priorities, provide coordinated management and collaboration of community-based fire defense planning and programs throughout Humboldt County, encourage development of local volunteer Fire Safe Councils and broad voluntary participation, and pursue a consensus-based approach to identify community fire safe planning, fire-safe landscape designs and collaborative fire defense implementation strategies.  

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Master Fire Protection Plan Overview and Planwest Partners Scope of Work

The FSC Coordinator referred to the Fire Plan outline (Attachment #1) of the agenda packet mailed to the FSC members. The Fire Plan schedule (Attachment #2), projects the target date for Fire Plan completion being March of 2004. The Planwest Partners project team’s Scope of Work (Attachment #3), has three tasks: risk assessment, community input, and Fire Plan write-up. In addition to Planwest Partners, the firm of RNB Spatial Data Inc. is a key part of the project team. The FSC Coordinator noted several people were scheduled to present information to the FSC on fire planning at county, state and national levels, starting with County staff.

County staff discussed the role of Humboldt County in the countywide fire planning process. The Fire Plan will be used to update the county’s General Land Use Plan. A survey will be sent to Local Fire Organizations (draft included in information packet) which is intended to provide information for the Municipal Services Review (MSR) Report, prepared by local fire organizations, to support the County General Plan and Local Agency Formation Commission’s (LAFCo) Sphere of Influence Report Updates. A LAFCo memo and MSR template was mailed to local fire organizations in March of 2001. LAFCo will use the MSR Report in adopting an appropriate Sphere of Influence for the local fire organizations.

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National, State and County Fire Planning Overviews

County staff discussed other reports that have utilized community input in the process of planning for the future, such as the Building Communities report and the Hazards & Resources report. They include parcel-based maps to identify developable and non-developable land. The Agriculture and Timber development elements are also being developed. Parcel-based maps, using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, have been instrumental in conveying information about the county’s land use, hazards, natural resources, and other features of interest in the planning process. County staff identified the County GIS Division as being a valuable resource and introduced the County GIS Planning Technician, to discuss the GIS county maps made available at the meeting. The Technician described the large maps of Humboldt County on display, that are made available by the county, including: Wildland Fire Hazard and Rating, Fire Districts and State Responsibility Areas, Fire History, Vegetation, Flood Zones, and Slope.

The next presenter was the FSC Forest Service representative, who summarized the National Fire Plan. The goals of the NFP are to ensure sufficient firefighting resources, rehabilitate and restore fire-damaged ecosystems, reduce fuels in forests and rangelands at risk (especially near communities), and work with local residents to reduce fire risk and improve fire protection. She referred to the National Fire Plan brochure provided at the meeting. Ms. Salazar are referred the audience to the U.S. Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us/projects/HFI.shtml, where it reviews the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative and legislation intended to improve fire management and forest health on our public lands. On a final note, the Forest Service representative said that it would be beneficial to seek ways to make NEPA documents help with fire planning.

The next presentation was from the Forest Service Rural Communities Specialist, who focused on the funding assistance programs for fire planning. The Specialist identified six programs:

  1. State Fire Assistance Program via CDF (50:50 match)
  2. Federal Excess Personal Property
  3. Acquisition Assistance Program
  4. Volunteer Fire Assistance Program (for communities with less than 10,000 population)
  5. Community Protection Program (no match, but it does help to be competitive)
  6. Economic Action Programs (80:20 match for communities with less than 10,000 population)

A hand out was provided summarizing the National Fire Plan Grants awarded within the county. During 2001, $85,480 was awarded and $377,372 was awarded during 2002.

The Specialist noted that most local Fire Safe Councils have received funding through the Economic Action Program-Fire Safe Planning. Some funding examples she gave were the Yurok Tribe’s small diameter utilization for biomass electrification system; the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s heat and power facility and firewood processing equipment; and the Humboldt Trinity Recreation Alliance’s small diameter mill feasibility study. Also, funding was awarded to Orleans/Somes Bar FSC and Willow Creek Community Services District for hazardous fuels reduction programs. In addition, there are some ongoing pilot projects involving small diameter mills. The Specialist concluded by saying that the deadline for upcoming EAP funding is February 3, 2003 for planning or economic use of materials.

It was also noted that Del Norte Resource Advisory Council has sought funding for residential water tanks (2500 gallons). Currently, six houses have been funded, with more are on way.

The final presenter was a CDF Fire Planner, who discussed the State of California’s Fire Plan. The State Fire Plan was developed prior to the National Fire Plan, which helped serve as a model. The Fire Planner reviewed a variety of published information on fire planning that was provided at the meeting:

  1. California Fire Plan Overview
  2. California Fire Plan report
  3. Fire Safe Guides for Residential Development in California, 1993 (state codes and guidelines)
  4. Homeowners Checklist on How to Make Your Home Fire Safe (prepared by CDF)
  5. Fire Management Plan, 2002 (CDF, Humboldt-Del Norte Unit)
  6. California Fire Alliance Resource Guide

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County Master Fire Protection Plan – Goals and Objectives

The FSC Coordinator referred to Attachment #7 that listed the county’s General Plan Policy Options for Fire Service and Emergency Response. The Coordinator then asked FSC members to participate in the exercise of drafting Humboldt County Master Fire Protection Plan Goals and Objectives (Attachment #8). The FSC members identified the following goals and objectives for the Master Fire Protection Plan:

FSC Comments on Goals

1) - Add the words "and existing" to the County’s General Framework Plan Fire Protection Goal, to read as follows: "to assure adequate fire protection for new and existing development."

2) Identify fire organizations as public safety agents.

3) Develop initial attack strategies for types of fires during all seasons that reduce bureaucracy.

4) Identify hurdles and programmatic obstacles (such as air standards) to prescribed burning and develop methods for fuel reduction and maintenance of hazardous fuels reduction.

5) Coordinate all fire organizations for strategic approach and prevention.

6) Effectively use media, publications, etc. for public education to promote volunteer recruitment.

7) Provide fire resources to communities.

8) Develop strategies to change social behavior to minimize losses and costs associated with fires.

9) Conduct cost & risk/benefit assessment to determine how much resources should be devoted to fire fighting in relation to the amount of benefits received from such actions.

FSC Comments of Objectives

1) Map and number homes for accurate location and information to make homes fire safe.

2) Provide information to make residents aware of what assets are currently fire protected and which ones are not. This may be an incentive for residents to construct new or larger water tanks in order to increase availability of water for fire fighting.

3) Show support to Board of Supervisors for reallocation of Proposition 172 funds from police to local fire agencies.

4) Promote biomass strategies and utilization.

5) Facilitate programmatic agreements/guidelines for fuel reduction.

6) Make fire planning process flexible and adjustable.

Cooperative and Mutual Aid Agreement and Related Issues Discussion

County staff asked the question of how to improve cooperative agreements and coordination among local fire agencies:

FSC responses: reorganize spheres of influence through possible consolidation to overcome LAFCO limitations on who can do fire assists; inform public that there are a lot of areas not "fire protected". Some examples of unprotected areas, such as many of the residents on Fickle Hill Road in Arcata and the gas station on Hwy 101, near the border of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, were provided.

The use of (tax) benefit assessment areas, in coordination state/federal government programs (i.e., Amador) for community fire protection, was commented on.

The importance of considering the Wildland/urban fire interface was mentioned: The planning process should identify values at risk to know whether and where fire protection is needed.

Work with appropriate government departments (i.e.: Transportation/Public Works, etc.) to have proper vegetation alongside roads and in public areas that reduces risk of fire spreading.

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Other Discussion

A FSC member commented that rural fire agency’s dispatching costs amounts to about $350/yr. plus $1 for each call. Also, Worker’s compensation and insurance costs have increased significantly.

Fire Plan Objectives #4 and #5 generated further discussion about biomass utilization and programmatic agreements. It was noted that timber harvest plans are required if biomass is used for fuel reduction, which can be time consuming and expensive. However, there are exemptions of 150 feet for human habitation. Also, programmatic agreements may be allowed to accommodate for "side-boards" (parameters), therefore, making it easier for businesses to operate within these "timber harvest zones." It was suggested that the county could be the facilitator regarding programmatic guidelines (for NEPA, SHPO, etc.) to promote programmatic agreements for timber harvesting fuel reduction. A FSC member commented that several entities have developed fuel reduction management, such as Fish & Wildlife Service in Yreka, National Marine Fisheries, and the Klamath National Forest.

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Risk Assessment

The coordinator referred to the Fire Organization Survey Form (Attachment #9) which will be mailed to the 32 local fire organizations. Mr. Williamson asked FSC members to review it for any needed changes. A FSC member commented on reducing this survey cover sheet to facilitate responding to the survey. Small fire organizations, such as Fruitland Volunteer Fire Department, do not have much time to respond to lengthy surveys, so specifically identifying why local fire agencies should respond to the survey or would benefit from it (i.e.: "this may get you some money") would help. Ms. Lake also recommended including a response deadline on the survey form and a place to include the responder’s e-mail address.

The question was asked whether fire data reported through CEFERS to the State Fire Marshall can be used to respond to the survey. Discussion followed about the CFIRS system for fire reporting data. Not all fire agencies report fire data through CFIRS. CDF may have fire data available for areas they provide dispatching.

The FSC Hoopa Valley Tribe representative commented that half of their roads have gates on them. This may need to be identified for fire fighting purposes. Also, it was noted that it would be beneficial to identify which of the fire hydrants are in operation and who is responsible for maintaining them.

A FSC member commented there are literally hundreds of fire hydrants and thousands of propane tanks in urban fire districts, which is a consideration when responding to the survey.

Del Norte Resource Advisory Council has sought funding for residential water tanks (2500 gallons). Currently, six houses have been funded and more are on way.

It was noted that some fire agencies do not have a designated sphere of influence and so will the survey be able to reflect this. Question #7 of the survey was referred to, where it asks the survey responders to differentiate between Sphere of Influence jurisdictional boundary with a solid line "__" and Mutual Aid Agreement/Back Fire Response boundary with a jagged line "^^^". Hopefully this will include all the types of fire protection boundaries.

The FSC Coordinator asked FSC members to identify some highly valued community assets or resources they would want to protect from potential fires. This exercise is a precursor to future discussions on identifying and prioritizing community assets to be protected from fire threats. The community assets identified are: people, homes, water storage systems/watersheds, timber, scenic and recreational areas.

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Chairperson and Vice-chairperson

Nominations from the FSC requested for Chair and Vice Chair. Dick Goings was nominated for FSC Chair and unanimously approved by the FSC members. Will Harling was nominated for Vice Chair and unanimously approved by the membership.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 10, 2003, from 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. to be held at the USFS Six Rivers National Forest conference room.

Adjournment

The new Chairperson, Dick Goings, adjourned the meeting at 5:20 P.M.

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