Tuolumne County CWPP

Highway 108 FireSafe Council, Inc.

Tuolumne County
Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)

December 12, 2004

Acknowledgments: The Tuolumne County Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) was prepared with the assistance of numerous individuals who contributed immeasurably to what the committee believes to be one of the most comprehensive CWPP in the state. Without this group of individuals bringing their broad range of backgrounds and interest to the discussion table, the effectiveness and overall acceptability of the CWPP would not have occurred.

Although many people contributed at various points along the way, a group of individuals were a part of the process from start to finish. The committee would like to thank Tom James, South West InterFace Team (SWIFT); Beth Martinez, US Forest Service (USFS)/108 Strategic Group; James Montgomery, Tuolumne County GIS; Rich Strazzo, California Division of Forestry (CDF); Rick Jerome, John Buckley, Jerry Tannhauser and John Harden, Highway108 Fire Safe Council; Nancy Longmore , Millie Beranek and Frank Beranek, Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council; Maureen Frank, Tuolumne County Chief Administrator’s Office/Office of Emergency Services (CAO/OES); Kary Hubbard, Tuolumne County Fire Marshals Office; Bobby Shindelar and Jerry McGowan, USFS; Mike Barrows, Sonora City Fire Department and Mike Noonan, CDF/Tuolumne County Fire Department (TCFD).

This memorandum provides information on where Tuolumne County is in terms of the CWPP assessments and data validation, and how well it has been integrated into the County’s daily operations. There is a section which discusses institutional issues that have impacted implementation of CWPP projects. The final section includes integration of existing CWPP into the master Tuolumne County CWPP.

CWPP Business Process Assessment

The formulation of the CWPP was accomplished following eight steps.

1. Convene Decision­makers ­ the CWPP working group was formed in September 2004. The collaborative partnership was established to develop a CWPP which would establish synergy between all existing agencies as well serve as a conduit to establish priorities for each community within the county. The group considered input from all working plans, community groups, agencies, and strategic groups. The objective was to have city, county, state, federal, and local public participation through Fire Safe Councils to work cooperatively to help protect life, property, and natural resources from wildfires.

2. Involve Federal Agencies – The USFS, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Yosemite National Park (YNP) participated in the working group, provided guidance, data, and direction for the CWPP.

3. Engage Interested Parties – Every fire agency in the County was contacted and encouraged to participate in the development of the CWPP. The two Fire Safe Councils provided the best platform to reach the other interested parties. Participation in the process was impressive and a good cross representation of public and private input was obtained.

4. Establish a Community Based Map – GIS technical expertise was provided by the USFS, Tuolumne County, and CDF. The mapping products are contained throughout this document. Residential concentrations with regard to the community protection areas have been identified. The pre­fire planning identifies all existing and planned fire defense systems, and any infrastructure or other pertinent information which includes water sources, helispots, staging areas, safety zones, area hazards, jurisdictions, fuel types, special management zones, incident support facilities, and fire history.

5. Develop Community Risk Assessment ­ The assessment of the fuels, weather, level of service, and assets at risk was completed in 1998. These assessments were used to identify the high hazard areas within the County. The fuels analysis showed that the fuels found in many areas that are threatened by major fires on a regular basis are rated medium or high hazard, not very high as would be expected. In many cases, fires would start in areas where very high hazard fuels exist, and then progress to the point of threatening communities and other valuable assets in areas with medium or high hazard fuels. This demonstrated the fact that the knowledge and experience of seasoned Tuolumne County fire suppression professionals was necessary to develop a valid risk assessment. With these factors being utilized, a list of Communities at Risk is identified in this document.

6. Establish Community Hazard Reduction Priorities and Recommendations to Reduce Structural Ignitability – The working group recognized the need to identify applicable Federal, State, and County laws and ordinances, and thusly references them in this document. These conventional methods are a foundation which will minimize fire starts, maximize building construction types, provision of sufficient clearances, and enhance infrastructure and other strategic fire defense systems. Other non conventional and creative methods have been adopted and should continue to be factored in the prioritization process. The CWPP working group must continue to refresh the priorities in an attempt to keep up with the changing demographics and communities at risk.

7. Develop an action plan and Assessment Strategy ­ During work on this document it was determined that reassessment must occur annually. The fire control professionals, the Fire Safe Councils, the Community and Strategic Groups had input into the CWPP; this provided the best format for assessing communities at risk and mitigations of the risks. The CWPP analysis will be used to justify the choice of projects based on a common sense and collaborative interpretation of the data.

8. Finalize the CWPP – The collaborative development of this plan is significant and goes a long way toward solidifying the plan. The community, through the Fire Safe Councils, had significant participation in the development of the plan. All fire agencies had the opportunity to participate in the development of the plan. Since the plan incorporates all communities at risk within Tuolumne County, the CWPP should be adopted by the County Board of Supervisors.

CWPP Data Layers

Validation of the key CWPP data layers (fuels, fire history, ignitions, weather station coverage, and asset at risk data) in Tuolumne County was completed in 1998. Validation of the fire history, ignitions, fuels and weather station coverage was done in 1996 and 1997. The weather station coverage and asset at risk data was compiled in 1998. Over the next two to three years, this data will be re­assessed to ensure its accuracy as part of the ôlivingö CWPP document.

CWPP Integration into Daily Operations

Integration of the CWPP into daily operations will be critical over the next couple of years. To accomplish this cohesive goal; integration of Ignition Management, Strategic Fire Defense Systems, Fire and Vegetation Management Plans (VMP) of all the co­operators in the working group, into one document will continue to be a work in progress. The staff of participating agencies is becoming more familiar with what the CWPP is all about, especially since grant funds have been awarded to pay for various projects throughout the County.

In the 2005 CWPP, Chief Officers of participating agencies will be playing a larger role in the CWPP development by preparing summaries of the wildland fire hazards and assets at risk in their respective jurisdictions. Based on the issues identified in their summaries, a collaborative effort with communities and agencies will develop mitigations to reduce the hazard and protect the assets. As each Chief Officer further analyzes their jurisdiction, it is anticipated that more detailed prescriptions will be developed in future updates to the CWPP document.

Key CWPP Players

Many members of the Fire Service, Fire Safe Councils, Strategy Groups and others; have assisted in all aspects of the CWPP from data validation to project identification, planning and implementation. This type of interaction will be important to maintain the document with accurate and updated information.

Interagency cooperation is a key component of the Tuolumne County Pre­Fire Management activities. The CWPP committee is made up of several interagency groups including federal, state and local government agencies within the County. Many cooperative projects have been completed as a result of agencies working hand in hand.

The two Fire Safe Councils that were formed in 2002 through a National Fire Plan Grant within Tuolumne County have become more involved with pre­fire management project development and implementation. The Councils also act as the primary link between the Fire Agencies and the local citizens.

The Fire Safe Councils have been working closely with the agency staffs to devise projects that will benefit all citizens living within the County. They have also applied for and received grants for fuels reduction and education projects.

CWPP Institutional Issues

Many institutional issues have made implementation of the Tuolumne County CWPP, projects, grants and contracts more difficult. These include:

1. The delay in announcing grants that were awarded through the National Fire Plan reduced the time frame to actually implement the grant projects.

  • a. This has frustrated both the agency chiefs and cooperator sponsors of these projects.
  • b. A more timely process must be developed to streamline grant award notification.

2. USFS contract equipment, crews and CDF fire crews have been very involved in the implementation of fire plan projects. There are not enough crews and equipment to support the work load generated by the CWPP. CDF managers in Sacramento, BLM, National Park Service and USFS managers in Washington must continue to support the use of crews and equipment. Expansion of such programs must occur.

3. The National Fire Plan grants do not allow funding of maintenance projects that will treat fuels that have grown back in existing fuel breaks and treated areas.

  • a. The only way that most of these maintenance measures will take place is through the use of grant dollars.
  • b. Agencies, fire safe councils, and strategic groups must communicate this fact to the grantors, otherwise maintenance of past treatment efforts will never occur.

4. Prescribed burns have become more difficult to execute for the following reasons:

  • a. Implementation of more stringent air pollution rules – ôBurn Daysö occur less frequently than before.
  • b. More difficult to schedule equipment and personnel resources during fire season. Many burns were postponed or cancelled altogether because resources were committed to incidents or cover assignments.
  • c. Early fall rains have caused burns to be cancelled.
  • d. Due to lawsuits being filed against government officials following recent prescribed burn escapes that have caused property damage, many agency officials are not willing to assume that liability.

5. Programmatic Environmental Impact Reports for performing VMP’s in coniferous forests need to be approved to avoid the current requirement of filing Negative Declarations for these projects.

6. Need to integrate both National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Assessment (CEQA) requirements into a single checklist to prevent the necessity of duplicating these efforts on projects where the Federal agencies and CDF are partners.

7. Delay in processing the new Five Party Agreement has delayed projects.

8. There is usually not enough Agency staff available to identify, plan and implement Pre­Fire projects during the non­fire season.

9. Weather has affected project implementation in the following ways:

  • a. Snow at higher elevation projects has kept crews from working during the winter months. This has been an issue on two grant projects.
  • b. As mentioned above in #4, rain has caused delays or cancellation of prescribed burns.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Executive Summary

Introduction

CWPP Concept and Process

Tuolumne County CWPP Concept

Tuolumne County Description

Stakeholder Process ­Fire Safe Council

Fuels, Weather, Level of Service & Assets at Risk

Fuels

Current Fuels

Current Fuels Map

Historic Fuels Map

Historic Fuels and Planning Belts

Fuel Hazard Rank

Planning Belt Map

Fuel Hazard Rank Map

Weather

Weather Station Coverage

Weather Rank

Level of Service

Tuolumne County Level of Service Map

Tuolumne County Ignition Density Map

Tuolumne County Unsuccessful Initial Attack Map

Assets at Risk

Water and Power

At Risk Communities

Timber

Recreation and Scenic

Air Quality

Historic Buildings

Wildlife

Infrastructure

County-wide Pre-Fire Management Plans

Tuolumne County 2003 Pre-Fire Management Plan Project List

Tuolumne County Fire Marshal WUI Mitigations

County-wide Plan

Evacuation Plans

Existing Plans

Southwest Interface Project

The Community Wildfire Protection Plan

Highway 108 Strategic Group Project

Executive Summary

The 2004 Community Wild Fire Protection Plan is the first of its type within Tuolumne County. It is a comprehensive plan that combines all the County’s pre­fire components into one document. It includes: the Tuolumne County concept of the Pre­Fire Management; a current description of Tuolumne County; a discussion of the stakeholders, fuels, weather, level of service (LOS) and assets at risk in the County; the Agency Pre­Fire Management Plans; Fire Safe Councils’ Plans; Strategic Groups Plans; and a discussion of the institutional issues related to implementation of the County CWPP. This plan addresses how Agencies are trying to mitigate the wildland fire hazard and ignition problem in the County.

The 2003 Fire Season in Tuolumne County was mild with below average ignitions, and below average acres burned. There were 388 fires in the County in 2003 compared to a five­year average of 409. Acres burned were 4,450, which compare to a five­year average of 7,776. During the 2001 season, 30,137 acres burned. The leading causes of fires during the 2003 season were vehicle use followed by arson, equipment use, and miscellaneous causes. During the 2002 season the leading causes of fires in order were: vehicle use, arson, miscellaneous, and undetermined. The 2003 ignition management projects focused on reduction of equipment caused fires, reduction of fireworks related incidents during the 4th of July period, close monitoring of arson fire activity, and tighter burn permit administration.

The focus of 2004 and 2005 ignition management projects will primarily be a continuation of the activities initiated in 2002/2003 to deal with equipment caused fires, arson fires, 4th of July fireworks activities, and burn permit escapes and violations.

Projects in 2004 focused on reducing fuels in and around communities, performing strip burns and fire break construction in areas of frequent vehicle fires, educating the public about the hazards of using equipment in wildland areas, and patrolling key areas of the County on high fire hazard days. Interagency cooperation on Highways 108 (Highway 108 Strategic Planning Group) and 120 (Southwest Interface Team Project) has led to numerous fuel reduction projects being implemented around communities in these corridors. Grants, agency funding, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) and individual citizens supported this work. The two Fire Safe Councils in the County have also worked with Fire Agency staff and other cooperators to develop and implement many projects. In addition to the fuels reduction projects, Agency Prevention Staff from BLM, USFS, CDF, Sheriff’s Office, and Volunteers in Prevention (VIP) were used to patrol the County for possible arson related activities and to educate the public on the safe use of equipment during fire season.

Some of the recent successes in Tuolumne County includes finished work on the following grant projects: 2001 Fire Safe Council Formation Grant Project; 2001 Fire Safe Council Operating Costs Grant; Pine Mountain Lake #2 2002 Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Grant Project; and the Ponderosa Hills Grant Project. Half of the projects were for fuels reduction and the other half were for education and Fire Safe Council formation/support projects. Over 200 acres were treated as a result of these projects. The total grant dollars spent was $240,239; $120,000 on fuels reduction work, the remaining on the other projects.

Crews continue to be a great asset in completing pre­fire projects. In 2003, Baseline Conservation Camp worked 67,352 man-hours on fuels reduction projects, while Sierra Training Center worked over 213,000 hours. These figures emphasize the importance of the Camp Program’s support of Fire Plan projects and their overall benefit to the citizens of California.

In 2004, participating agency staffs have been busy working with the Fire Safe Councils, interagency groups, citizens, and others to develop pre­fire projects in many high hazard areas in the County. The projects range from fuels reduction to information/education type activities. The details of these projects are outlined in the County­Wide and agency­specific sections of this document.

Introduction

CWPP Concept and Process

The CWPP work group has considered the approach of The State Board of Forestry and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF). These entities at the state level have drafted a comprehensive update of the fire plan for wildland fire protection in California. The planning process defines a level of service measurement, considers assets at risk, incorporates the cooperative interdependent relationships of wildland fire protection providers, provides for public stakeholder involvement, and creates a fiscal framework for policy analysis.

The CWPP work group also considered the United States Forest Service (USFS) method of managing fuels which includes reducing potential fire behavior, returning the land to natural fire regime condition class within or near historical ranges, and the protection of life and property. Fuels reduction projects on the Stanislaus National Forest are prioritized, planned, and coordinated with the Fire Safe Councils, local governments, and private land owners within Tuolumne County.

Goal and Objectives

The overall goal is to reduce total costs and losses from wildland fire in Tuolumne County by protecting assets at risk through focused pre­fire management prescriptions, enhancement of strategic fire defense systems and increasing initial attack success.

The CWPP has five strategic objectives:

1. To identify projects which, when completed, will reduce the risks to citizens and firefighters.

2. To assess all wildland areas. The analysis will include all wildland fire service providers: federal, state, local government, and private. The analysis will identify high risk, high value areas, and develop information on and determine who is responsible, who is responding, and who is paying for wildland fire emergencies.

3. To identify and analyze key policy issues and develop recommendations for changes in public policy. Analysis will include alternatives to reduce total costs and losses by increasing fire protection system effectiveness.

4. To have a strong fiscal policy focus and monitor the wildland fire protection system in fiscal terms. This will include all public and private expenditures and economic losses.

5. To translate the analysis into public policies.

CWPP Framework

Five major components will form the basis of an ongoing fire planning process to monitor and assess Tuolumne County’s wildland fire environment:

1. Successful Project Identification. A key product of the CWPP is the development of pre­suppression projects which will reduce citizen and firefighter risks from future large wildfires.

2. Initial attack success. The CWPP defines an assessment process for measuring the level of service provided by the fire protection system for wildland fire. This measure can be used to assess State and Federal agency’s ability to provide an equal level of protection to lands of similar type, as required by Public Resources Code (PRC) 4130. This measurement is the percentage of fires that are successfully controlled before unacceptable costs are incurred. Knowledge of the level of service will help define the risk to wildfire damage faced by public and private assets in wildland areas.

3. Assets protected. The plan will establish a methodology for defining assets protected and their degree of risk from wildfire. The assets addressed in the plan are citizen and firefighter safety, watersheds and water, timber, wildlife and habitat (including rare and endangered species), unique areas (scenic, cultural, and historic), recreation, range, structures, air quality. Stakeholders ù national, state, local, and private agencies, interest groups, etc. ù will be identified for each asset at risk. The assessment will define the areas where assets are at risk from wildfire, enabling fire service managers and stakeholders to set priorities for pre­fire management project work.

4. Pre­Fire Management. This aspect focuses on system analysis methods that assess alternatives to protect assets from unacceptable risk of wildland fire damage. Projects include a combination of fuels reduction, ignition management, fire­safe engineering activities, and forest health to protect public and private assets. The priority for projects will be based on asset owners and other stakeholders input and support. Pre­fire management prescriptions designed to protect these assets will also identify who benefits and who should share in the project costs.

5. Fiscal framework. The fire agencies, fire safe councils, and strategy groups must develop a fiscal framework for assessing and monitoring annual and long­term changes in California’s wildland fire-protection systems. State, local, and federal wildland fire protection agencies, along with the private sector, have evolved into an interdependent system of pre­fire management and suppression forces. As a result, changes to budgeted levels of service of any of the entities directly affect the others and the services delivered to the public.

The following are CWPP framework applications:

* Identify for state, federal, and local officials and for the public those areas of concentrated assets and high risk.

* Allow the County to have an efficient fire protection system focused on meaningful solutions for identified problem areas.

* Give citizens an opportunity to identify public and private assets to design and carry out projects to protect those assets.

* Identify, before fires start, where cost­effective pre­fire management investments can be made to reduce taxpayer costs and citizen losses from wildfire.

* Encourage an integrated intergovernmental approach to reducing costs and losses.

* Enable policy makers and the public to focus on what can be done to reduce future costs and losses from wildfires.

Tuolumne County CWPP Concept

The CWPP Concept in Tuolumne County involves a strategic and comprehensive approach to fire safe planning and project development. In the spirit of cooperation amongst all the fire agencies, with applicable governmental agencies, public and private groups, and stakeholders the work group will maintain a comprehensive CWPP to address the fire problem within the County.

All agencies staff members will work cooperatively with entities which provide fire and natural resource protection on Local Responsibility Areas (LRA), Federal lands, and State Responsibility Areas (SRA) to maintain a comprehensive CWPP. Local government (city, county, and special districts), the County, State (CDF), Forest Service (USFS), Yosemite National Park (YNP) and the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have already begun this process in Tuolumne County. Although there are no Resource Conservation Districts (RCD) within Tuolumne County, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has formed a Resource Conservation and Development Area that includes the county. This will offer an additional avenue to form public/private partnerships to plan and implement projects.

Coordination of the efforts of the fire agencies and citizens mentioned above will take place at the meetings of several inter-agency groups and the two Fire Safe Councils, and the two strategy groups that exist within the County. For a detailed description of the councils see the Stakeholder Process­Fire Safe Council section of this document. Within the Fire Safe Council framework, members (agencies, groups, citizens, etc.) can work together with the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission to develop fire safe measures, plans and projects within the county. The CWPP will function as a center point or conduit for all of the above mentioned activities and groups for the purpose of collaborating county Wildfire Protection activities and for seeking Local Government, State, and Federal support for the said projects, when applicable.

Existing programs and treatments will be used to implement the projects that are developed through the planning process. One of the most commonly used programs will be the forest agencies Vegetation Management Programs (VMP). These programs will be used to perform fuel modification projects such as prescribed burns, brush clearing, biomass reduction, and fuel break construction. CDF/LE­38 inspection program will be used to ensure that property owners have adequate clearance of flammable vegetation around their structures. Timber harvesting of over-­dense forest stands will be encouraged to reduce the fuel build­up, which leads to large, catastrophic wildfires. Demonstrations of the above projects will be used to educate the public on their importance in creating a fire safe environment in and around their communities and homes.

For an area in which a project is proposed, the first objective is to isolate the assets at risk, while the second objective is to mitigate the condition that is the agent causing the risk. This can be accomplished in a single project or a series of projects over time.

Establishment of fuel breaks and/or fire safe communities (PRC 4290 and 4291) will be the first step to protect assets at risk. Once those are established, they will be used as an anchor point for fuel modification efforts for the adjoining areas through manual and mechanical treatments, prescribed burning and timber harvesting. Utilizing these measures, the objective is to be able to confine future wildfires to the watershed drainage of origin that is bounded by the fuel breaks. This process will be utilized for the maintenance of the established fuel breaks.

All of these measures will enable multiple agencies and private citizens to become involved in planning and implementing fire safe projects. By involving all agencies and the general public, jurisdictional boundaries will no longer stall implementation of strategic projects.

Tuolumne County Description

Geographic

Tuolumne County’s total area encompasses 2,217 sq. miles. The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range runs north­west/south­east in the eastern part of the county. There are two major rivers: the Stanislaus River and the Tuolumne River. Both of these rivers run east to west. The county also has several lakes and reservoirs with the largest two being Lake Don Pedro and New Melones Lake. The vast beauty of the mountain ranges, tall stands of trees, the rural nature and the dry Mediterranean climate of our county means that we are very susceptible to major wildland fires. History tells us that unless we take the time to examine land use and building practices and then implement mitigation measures that a major catastrophic fire could occur, thus wiping out the landscape we love and work so hard to protect.

When looking at the influences of land use in Tuolumne County one needs to first look at the major land divisions in the County. Basically the county can be divided into thirds. One third is the Stanislaus National Forest; another third is Yosemite National Park, while the last third is the City of Sonora and the unincorporated area of the County. The majority of the county’s population resides in the unincorporated area, which interfaces with the national forest and national park wildlands. Each year there is increased development in this wildland­urban interface, which provides a series of complex challenges to all who live and work in foothill counties. How do we ensure the safety of the citizens that move into these areas while at the same time protecting the wildland areas?

Tuolumne County is located in Central California. Approximately half of the acreage in the county is State Responsibility Area (SRA) ­ land where the wildland fire protection responsibility is CDF. Land owners of both SRA and NON­SRA lands within the County include: National Park Service (NPS); United States Forest Service (USFS); Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Bureau of Reclamation (BOR); US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); Military; State of California; and private. To reduce a duplication of costs, the Federal and State wildland fire-protection agencies have entered into various agreements that define Direct Protection Areas (DPA) for each agency, regardless of land ownership within a given DPA.

There are three east­-west state highways in the County: Highway 108, Highway 120 and Highway 132. State Highway 49 is the only north­south highway in the County. The majority of the towns exist on or near these transportation corridors. These highway corridors are used within this plan as reference areas for specific projects and locations.

There are two major watersheds in the County, the Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers. Numerous water and power utilities make use of the resources of these rivers and their tributaries.

Socio-Economic

In Tuolumne County, the highest population density is found on the Highway 108 corridor from Jamestown to Twain Harte. The Groveland and Lake Don Pedro areas also have a high population density.

The population within the County increases significantly during the fire season for several reasons. The many vacation homes within the County are used more frequently at this time of the year. This area has many recreational opportunities, which draw people from all over the state and country. Seasonal workers come to this area in search of summer jobs, thus increasing the resident population. Both Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest draw millions of visitors from all over the world each year. Since the majority of fires are human caused, this increase in population usually results in more wildland fire ignitions.

The major industries that support the local economy include timber, cattle, tourism, recreation, viticulture and construction. A variety of other small businesses contribute significantly to the local economy. All of these industries have been affected at one time or another when wildfires have burned in the County. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been lost both directly and indirectly due to these fires.

Fire Environment

The fire environment in Tuolumne County is conducive to large, damaging fires as shown by the major fire history map. Over 38% of the CDF and Federal DPA lands are covered with high hazard fuels (brush and timber). The topography contains many steep canyons, which, in some cases, are inaccessible. Fighting fires with bulldozers is difficult, if not impossible, in much of the County due to this rugged terrain. Severe fire weather occurs on 35% of the days during the fire season in much of the County. This, coupled with the rugged terrain and the high hazard fuels, increases the probability that large damaging fires will occur on a regular basis.

Fire Service Resources in Tuolumne County

The wildland fire agencies have many resources within the County to combat fires.

In peak fire season the Stanislaus National Forest staffs 12 Type III fire engines, two Type II water tenders, two fire dozers, two Type I Hotshot crews, four 10­person fire use modules, 12 fire prevention units, and one Type II Helicopter. These resources staff ten fire stations on four Rangers Districts within the Stanislaus National Forest. In addition, the Forest staffs five fire lookout towers and the Stockton heavy airtanker base. The Stanislaus Emergency Communication Center (ECC) handles dispatching for fire incidents located within the Stanislaus National Forest Direct Protection Areas (DPA) and coordinates resource needs with the Tuolumne Calaveras Unit Emergency Command Center.

During Peak fire season BLM has a Type IV Fire Engine, Bulldozer, and Hot Shot Crew which are periodically based in the area.

The YNP has 1 Type II Helicopter, 1 Type II Dozer, 4 Type III Wildland Engines, 2 Type IV Wildland Engines, 1 Type II IA Handcrew, 1 Type II Water Tender, 4 Type I Structure Engines, and 2 Type II Structure Engines.

The CDF in Tuolumne County manages five fire stations, one conservation camp, one conservation-camp training center, an air attack base and a helitack base. During peak fire season, Tuolumne/Calaveras Unit staffs 21 Type III engines, 10 fire crews, two bulldozers, one air attack, two air tankers, one helicopter, and one Tuolumne County Type I engine. In addition to dispatching CDF resources, Tuolumne Calaveras Unit Emergency Command Center (ECC) handles dispatching for all of the local fire departments in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties and the Bear Valley Fire Department in Alpine County.

There are many cooperative auto aid agreements between the local governmental fire departments/districts within the county. The Tuolumne County Fire Chiefs Association meets monthly and many of the local government resources, within the county, are coordinated in this forum.

The Tuolumne County Fire Department has one permanent full time fire station and 13 volunteer stations. The city of Sonora also has a permanent paid fire station augmented with volunteer fire fighters. There are six fire districts including Strawberry, MiWuk/Sugar Pine, Twain Harte, Jamestown, Columbia, Tuolumne City, and Groveland Community Services District located in the county. The Sierra Conservation Center has a fire department located at the prison. Columbia College operates a fire station on campus.

Stakeholder Process ­Fire Safe Council

The Tuolumne Calaveras Fire Safe Council was formed in the mid 1990’s, and was the main stakeholder group used by the participating local, state and federal agencies to collect and disseminate information vital to the old Fire Plan. This group’s membership included people from government, industry, special interest groups and private individuals that were interested in promoting the fire safe message. Interest and participation in this council slowly declined in the late 1990’s and Agency pre­fire management staff began seeking for a way to revitalize the group. It was determined that the County covered too large an area to focus on local issues and that forming several smaller councils would probably result in more active, productive, independent councils.

In 2001 CDF applied for and received a National Fire Plan Forest Service Dependent Rural Communities Grant from the Stanislaus National Forest to form four new Fire Safe Councils, one on each of the four major east­west highway corridors in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. The goal of this grant was for CDF to contract with a consultant who would coordinate the formation of the new Fire Safe Councils. Mark Valle, of Corporate Visions, was awarded the contract in the fall of 2002 and the first meetings of the four councils were held in November. The Calaveras Foothills (Northern Calaveras County area), Sierra Highway 4 (Southern Calaveras County area), Highway 108 (Northern Tuolumne County) and Yosemite Foothills (Southern Tuolumne County) Fire Safe Councils formed after the first meeting.

The two Fire Safe Councils in Tuolumne County are now becoming more active in developing fire safe projects and educational activities within their geographic areas. Working cooperatively with these councils to identify, plan and implement projects is an important aspect of the CWPP. Stakeholders in the Fire Safe Councils also play an important part in validating CWPP data in their particular areas of expertise.

Key issues that are important to the two Councils in Tuolumne County include:

* Educate the public about the fire threat and the fire­safe measures that they can take to protect their homes.

* Reducing the fuel hazards that exist around homes and communities.

* Reduce the potential for catastrophic fires.

* Develop new programs to deal with yard debris disposal.

* Recycle yard debris to lessen landfill impacts.

* Develop creative ways to make compliance with fire­safe regulations easier and more effective for property owners.

* Maintain an open communication line with and be the link between the general public and fire protection agencies.

* Be an active partner in creating comprehensive fire plans for the council’s area of influence.

* Maintain air and water quality.

* Promote a healthy forest.

* Build community support for gaining additional funding, programs, and equipment in order to meet fire suppression and prevention needs in the local region.

* Monitor and support programs to ensure that the minimum legal requirements for preventive clearance and fire safety are met every year on all private properties, timberlands, and public lands within the council’s area of influence.

The members of the original Tuolumne Fire Safe Council were very helpful in assessing the assets at risk in the County. Water, power, county and local government agencies, private citizens, and many others provided valuable information to Agency pre­fire management staff. Once the new councils are better situated organizationally, Agency personnel will re­evaluate the assets using council member’s expertise.

Fuels, Weather, Level of Service & Assets at Risk

As part of the CWPP process, the fuels, assets at risk, past fire weather history and the level of service that local, state and federal agencies have provided to the public will be analyzed. The data for the four components was compiled by the wildland fire agencies.

To arrive at a common land area unit to assemble this data, US Geological Survey 7.5 minute quadrangle maps were divided by a 9×9 grid, forming 81 equal area blocks of land. Each block contains approximately 450 acres and has been named a Quad 81st. The data for the entire County has been compiled down to the Quad 81st .

Fuels are the burnable vegetation that exists within the County. Assets at risk refer to anything that has the potential to be burned or damaged when a wildfire burns in an area. Many assets have been identified and will be ranked as to their risk from wildfire. The past fire weather history will be analyzed and the percentage of days, during the fire season, that severe fire weather is experienced by each Quad 81st will be calculated. The level of service is a measure of how successful fire agencies are at controlling fires during the initial attack stages of a fire. The number of successful initial attacks divided by the total number of initial attacks will equal the level of service for the time period analyzed.

Fuels

Wildland fuels or vegetation are the basic catalyst that supports the combustion process of wildfires. The various fuels found in California have specific characteristics, which allow fire behavior analysts to categorize them based upon how they burn. The Fire Behavior Prediction System (FBPS) was the method chosen for categorizing fuels for the CWPP process. This method classifies fuels into 13 basic fuel models, each of which has specific physical and burning characteristics. The models include three grass, four brush, three timber and three slash fuel types. The fire plan has labeled fuel model #2, a grass model, as a woodland fuel. This modeling system also allows the creation of custom fuel models when none of the 13 models adequately represent the fuels that are found in an area. Custom fuel models were developed for plantation/burned areas, water, rock/barren and urban areas.

The fuels models will be used to label the current and historic fuels in the County. The current fuels are those fuels that exist now. The historic fuels are the climax fuel models or those that existed prior to fire occurrence in the area. Past wildfires and Vegetation Management Program (VMP) burns have modified these fuels to their current conditions. We must assess these areas to determine the historic fuels that existed prior to the fires or what fuels will exist in the final stage of vegetative development. The historic fuel models will be used to label the four planning belts found in Tuolumne County as grass, brush, woodland or conifer types.

The current fuel model, slope class, a ladder fuel and crown closure component, and a difficulty of control rating will be used to derive the fuel hazard rank for each quad 81st.

Agency staff has determined that there are realistically no low hazard fuels in California, thus the fuels will be ranked medium, high or very high. FRAP has assigned a medium ranking to fuel model #1 (grass) on slopes of 10% or less and a high ranking on slopes greater than 10%. Fuel model #2 (woodland) is ranked high on slopes of 40% or less and very high on slopes greater than 40%. Fuel model #6 (brush/hardwood) is ranked high on slopes of 75% or less and very high on slopes greater than 75%. Fuel models #4 (brush) and #10 (timber) are ranked very high regardless of the slope.

Agency Pre­-Fire Management staff completed the County fuels validation in 1997. Since then, there have been several major wildfires and enough man­-made disturbances to local vegetation that a reassessment is necessary. It is anticipated that the reassessment will occur over the next 2 years as time and personnel are available to work on the project.

Current Fuels

Referring to the current fuel model map; 45% of the Quad 81st’s in the DPA were labeled as grass, 19% woodland, 8% brush, 7% brush/hardwood, and 21% timber. The majority of the grass model exists west of State Highway 49 in the lower foothills, and to the east of the highway, the grass model is limited above 2,500 feet in elevation. The woodland areas are scattered from 800 to 4000 feet in elevation, some of which are in large blocks.

The brush model (#4) exists in larger blocks in the 800 to 4000 foot elevation. The blocks are in some of the less inhabited areas of Tuolumne County. The Red Hills, Lake Don Pedro, Moccasin and New Melones Lake areas have the largest concentrations of brush. There are also large blocks of brush in the Tuolumne River canyon south of Tuolumne City, and Highway 49 south of Moccasin.

Fuel model #6, the brush/hardwood model, was used to label those areas that have a mixture of live oak, black oak, Manzanita, and chamise. This fuel type has a closed over story with light grass or leaf litter on the ground. Manzanita and chamise make up less than 15% of the fuel cover. The majority of this fuel type is between 1000 to 4000 feet in elevation. A large block extends from New Melones Reservoir near Parrots Ferry, up the South Fork of the Stanislaus River approximately 5 miles, and then over Big Hill to the Cedar Ridge area. South of this area, there are scattered areas consisting of 2 to 4 Quad 81st cells.

Except for a large block east of Groveland, the timber fuel model (#10) is primarily above 3500 feet in elevation. Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is a large private owner of timberland. The remaining areas are made up of USFS, BLM, CDPR and other government and private ownership.

Current Fuels Map (not available here)

Historic Fuels Map (not available here)

Historic Fuels and Planning Belts

With some exceptions, the current fuels are very similar to the historic fuels. Most of the fuels in burn areas have reverted to their historic state or close enough to classify them as such. Some quad 81st within the Moccasin fire (August 1992) areas have not reverted to their historic fuel models.

The historic fuels were the basis for assigning planning belts to each quad 81st. The table below shows the fuel models assigned to and the percentage of the DPA covered by each planning belt.

Planning Belt

Historic Fuel Model(s)

% of DPA

Grass

1 and 3

44

Woodland

2

18

Brush

4, 5, 6 and 7

17

Conifer

8, 9 and 10

21

Except for the woodland planning belt, all of the others include two or more fuel models. In the DPA, there are more areas shaded in brown on the planning belt map compared to that of the historic fuels map because fuel models #4 and #6 are combined to form the brush planning belt. Fuel model #10 was used to classify all the conifer type areas in the DPA, so the conifer planning belt in the DPA is exactly the same as the area covered by fuel model #10 in the historic fuel map.

Fuel Hazard Rank

In the DPA, 25% of the Quad 81st were ranked medium, 45% high and 30% very high. This shows that over three­ quarters of the CDF direct protection area contains high hazard fuels.

The fuel rank for each Quad 81st is directly related to its assigned current fuel model. All cells labeled with fuel models #4 and # 10 were ranked very high and represent a total of 29% of the DPA. Those consisting of fuel model #6 (8%) were all ranked high. Quad 81st with fuel models #1 and #2 needed to be ranked based on their slope class. The grass model (#1) covered 44% of the DPA, of which the number of cells were divided equally between medium and high ranks. Fuel model #2 (18%) was divided into 90% high and 10% very high ranks.

Planning Belt Map (not available here)

Fuel Hazard Rank Map (not available here)

Weather

Fire weather is one of the most important factors to consider in a study of wildland fire history and potential for a given area. In the fire plan, past weather data will be used to calculate the Level of Service (LOS), assign a severe fire weather ranking to each Quad 81st, and run the California Fire Economics Simulator, Version 2 (CFES2). In order to perform these operations, it will be necessary to gather past weather records from local weather stations that cover different areas within the County. Each Quad 81st will be assigned a weather station from which data will be collected. To insure the most complete assemblage of weather records, alternate weather stations will also be assigned. Prior to 1991, remote automated weather stations (RAWS) maintained incomplete data due to malfunctions and other equipment problems. During this period and any other time that data is not available, the weather data will come from other weather stations that cover similar areas outside the County. The weather station coverage map shows which stations were assigned to each Quad 81st.

The weather data will be used in several ways in the fire plan analysis. In the LOS program, it will be used to calculate the burn index (BI) and energy release component (ERC) to determine the fire intensity for each fire ignition that occurred during the analysis period. From these components and other ignition information, the fire will be categorized as a successful or unsuccessful initial attack. This software will also calculate the severe fire weather rank (high, medium or low), for each Quad 81st, based on the weather data, slope and other Quad 81st attributes. In CFES2, the historic weather data will be used to project fire indices (BI, ERC, rate of spread (ROS)) to be used in simulating wildland fires in the future. This information will then be used to analyze how changes in fire suppression forces will affect the County level of service.

Weather Station Coverage

Nine weather stations were used to provide weather coverage in Tuolumne County. The Green Springs weather station covers the low elevation areas below 1000 feet. The Esperanza station (in Calaveras County) covers from 1000 to 3500 feet in the north and central portions of the County. It also covers southern Tuolumne County between 1000 and 2000 feet in elevation. The Buck Meadows (USFS) station covers 2000 to 4800 feet in southern Tuolumne County. Most of the County between the elevations of 3500 to 6000 feet is represented by weather data from Mount Elizabeth (USFS). The Pinecrest station (USFS) covers areas between 6,000 to 7,000 feet. The Myers (USFS) weather station covers from 7,000 feet to just east of the Sierra crest. The Walker (USFS) station covers all areas east of the Myers coverage. The higher elevations near Highway 120 east of Groveland are covered by the Crane Flat (YNP) weather station.

Weather Rank

The process for deriving the weather rank is currently being reassessed and modified. This section will be added to the fire plan once a new method is developed and implemented.

Level of Service

A primary Board of Forestry responsibility is set forth in Public Resources Code Section 4130, which dictates the following:

1. Directs the Board to classify all wildland within state responsibility areas (SRA) based on cover, beneficial water uses, probable erosion damage and fire risks and hazards.

2. Determine the intensity of protection to be given to each type of wildland.

3. Prepare a fire plan to assure adequate statewide fire protection so that lands of each type are assigned the same intensity of protection.

The Level of Service (LOS) analysis will assess how successful CDF has been in providing equal fire protection to similar lands. In addition, it will show where this goal is not being achieved and improvement is needed.

For the purposes of the LOS analysis, CDF is using planning belts to classify wildland areas throughout the state. The brush, grass, woodland and interior conifer (timber) planning belts exist within the Tuolumne/Calaveras County.

Software to perform the LOS analysis was developed by staff at CDF’s Information Technology and Fire and Resource Assessment Program offices in Sacramento. This software measures CDF’s effectiveness in controlling wildfires during the initial attack (IA) phase of the fire, before unacceptable costs and losses occur. Fire ignition data for a given period is examined by the software and each ignition is classified as being either a successful or unsuccessful IA. The ignition data is derived from the Emergency Activity Reporting System (EARS) database. Ignitions are assigned to a wildland type based upon the planning belt in which they occurred. The number of successful IA’s is then divided by the total number of ignitions (in each planning belt) to determine the IA success rate for each planning belt.

During the 1991­2003 period, Tuolumne/Calaveras Ranger Unit had 3,993 ignitions, of which 3,849 (96%) were contained within the initial attack stage of the fire as determined by the fire plan analysis. The 144 initial attack failures that were experienced during this period occurred within 131 Quad 81st’s. That means that some Quad 81st’s experienced more than one failure.

The initial attack success or failure determination is made based on the fire size and intensity attributes of each ignition. The fire intensity is based on the energy release component or burn index, which was present on the date of each ignition. These indices are arrived at by combining historical weather data on the date in which each ignition occurred with the fuel model, which exists at the ignition origin. Fire weather data is obtained from archived WIMS and RAWS data files. For ignitions in which no weather records could be found, only the size parameter is used to determine if the fire was an initial attack success.

The ignition and LOS analysis was performed on ignition data for the 1991 to 2003 period. The LOS score, and the number of ignitions and unsuccessful initial attacks for each planning belt in Tuolumne County, for this period, are listed in the table below.

Planning Belt

LOS %

# of Ignitions

# of Unsuccessful Initial Attacks

Brush

97

244

7

Grass

96

1457

61

Interior Conifer

97

1811

62

Woodland

97

481

14

The Tuolumne/Calaveras Unit Level of Service Map is color­ coded based on the LOS score that each quad 81st received. The ignition density map shows the quad 81st where all of the wildland fire ignitions occurred for the 1991­2003 period. The Ignition Failure Maps show the where the unsuccessful initial attacks occurred in the County.

An analysis of the Ignition Density Map shows that the Highway 108 corridor had the most ignitions. Locales in the County where there are recreation areas or a higher population density also experienced more ignitions. The remainder of the County is scattered with ignitions that occurred less often than the areas noted above.

Tuolumne County Level of Service Map (not available here)

Tuolumne County Ignition Density Map (not available here)

Tuolumne County Unsuccessful Initial Attack Map (not available here)

Assets at Risk

Tuolumne County has a multitude of natural and manmade values (assets) that are at risk when major wildfires occur. Fires can wreak havoc not only on homes, recreational and commercial values, but also on nature in general by destroying fragile habitat and threatening rare and endangered species. Commercial and residential property is destroyed by wildfires within the County each year. Water, telephone and power utility companies have lost millions of dollars through both the direct and indirect effects of forest fires. Wildfires also cause damage to scenic and aesthetic values in rural areas.

Water and Power

The watershed areas are of particular concern since they affect so many other assets. Water, power, recreation and fisheries are just a few of the values associated with the County’s watershed areas. Soil erosion is a major contributor to damage and degradation of our watersheds and their associated water storage and power generating facilities.

Several water providers and users divert, store or transport water from the watersheds that lie within Tuolumne County. This water is used for domestic, commercial and agricultural purposes in the County, the Central Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Millions of people benefit from this great resource.

Many of the local water utility companies still depend on ditches and flumes to transport water to their treatment facilities. Some of the flumes have been damaged directly by past fires or indirectly by erosion of the steep slopes where they exist.

There are utility companies that generate hydroelectric power in the County. In the past, wildland fires have caused major damage to both the watersheds where power plants exist and the power line systems used to distribute the electricity.

At Risk Communities

The most sacred of all possessions is a personal home or business. These are threatened almost every time a wildfire burns. Within the County, high concentrations of residential and commercial structures exist primarily in the communities along the Highway 120, 49 and 108 corridors. Outside of these areas, there are several other communities and subdivisions that have a high structure density including: Groveland, Tuolumne City and Lake Don Pedro.

At­ Risk Community in Title I of the High Fire Risk Assessment (HFRA), this term means:

An area at risk is an interface community as defined in the notice Wildland Urban Interface Communities Within the Vicinity of Federal Lands That Are at High Risk From Wildfire, issued by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior in accordance with Title IV of the U.S. Department of the Interior and related agencies Appropriations Act.

Or,

A group of homes and other structures with basic infrastructure and services within or adjacent to Federal Land

And,

In which conditions are conducive to a large­scale wildland fire disturbance event

And,

For which a significant threat to human life or property exists as a result of a wildland fire disturbance event.

The CWPP working group identified 51 communities in Tuolumne County, which meet the criteria as an At Risk Community. The following table lists the communities:

Tuolumne County Communities at Risk

Arastraville­ Ponderosa Hills

Sonora

Big Oak Flat

Soulsbyville

Bumblebee

Standard

Cattle Drive Trail

Stent

Chinese Camp

Strawberry

Cold Springs­Peter Pam

Tuolumne City

Columbia

Tuttletown

Confidence

Twain Harte

Cow Creek

Willow Springs

Crystal Falls

Yankee Hill

Dardanelle

Cascade Creek

East Sonora

Cow Creek

Gold Springs

Leland

Groveland­ ­

Mill Creek

Harden Flat

Niagara

Italian Bar Rd.

Douglas East

Jack Ass Hill

Douglas West

Jamestown

Brightman Flat

Jupiter

Wagner

Kennedy Meadow

Riverside

Lake Don Pedro

Long Barn

Mather

Melones Lake

Mi­Wuk Village

Moccasin

Mono Vista

Phoenix Lake­Cedar Ridge

Pinecrest

Pine Mountain Lake

Pine MTN Lake

Sierra Village

Smith Station

Timber

In Tuolumne and Calaveras counties there are approximately 920,000 acres of commercial timberland exist within the County. It is estimated that 58% of these timberlands have a high site index, which leads to increased timber stand productivity. The largest commercial timberland owner is Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), with 140,000 acres. In addition to the SPI timberland, many small landowners own commercial timberland. The USFS is the largest government owner of timberland in the County.

Recreation and Scenic

Recreation is a major industry in the County. Camping, hunting, fishing, boating, and many other leisure activities account for a large percentage of the revenue generated in this area. Wildfires may influence these activities in several ways. First, they may destroy the recreational facilities and the surrounding forest vegetation. Second, these facilities may be temporarily closed while fires are actively burning in and around these areas. Third, once a fire burns in an area, the public’s once positive perception of the area may be slighted.

The Sierra Nevada foothills offer the public unsurpassed scenic landscapes that people from all over the world come to visit. Highway 120 leads to the north entrance of Yosemite National Park and provides a substantial view shed east of Groveland.

Air Quality

The Tuolumne County has portions of the San Joaquin Valley, Great Basin Valleys and the Mountain Counties Air Basins within its boundaries. The Mountain Counties air basin makes up 82% of the CDF DPA.

During fire season, prevailing southwest, west and northwest winds tend to blow the smog generated in the valley and Bay Area into the Mountain Counties Air Basin. Smoke generated from wildfires that occur in the County adds to the already stagnant air conditions. Low inversion layers reduce the air quality further by trapping the smoke closer to the ground.

Prescribed burn projects minimize the negative effects that wildfires have on the air quality. Prescribed burning is performed when the weather conditions will allow quick dispersal of the smoke generated by the burn. These burns are aimed at reducing the amount of heavy brush and dense forest fuels. The lighter fuels that exist after a prescribed burn produce considerably less smoke when burned by a wildfire.

Historic Buildings

Since the Gold Country runs through Tuolumne County, many historic structures exist in all areas of the County. High concentrations of historic buildings exist in the communities of Sonora, Columbia, Jamestown, Groveland, Big Oak Flat and Tuolumne. Outside of these communities, individual or small groups of historic structures are located throughout the County.

Wildlife

Most of the County consists of forest, brush and grass covered lands, which provide excellent habitat for both game and non­game wildlife. Many wildfires burn at such a high intensity that they affect wildlife by damaging or destroying their fragile habitat. Wildlife habitat can benefit greatly and many of the harmful effects of wildfires can be mitigated through the use of prescribed fire.

The California Natural Diversity Database will be used to locate critical habitats in high fire hazard areas within the County. When projects are developed in these areas, consultations will occur with the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and mitigation measures will be used to protect and enhance any critical habitats that are found.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure includes transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions. Water, power and structures are addressed in other asset descriptions in this document. Most of the transportation systems in the County are not directly affected physically by wildfires. Indirect effects influence them more through the erosion that may occur on steeper slopes following a fire.

Communications systems are the focus of the infrastructure assets at risk analysis.

Communications vaults and various types of antennas exist in remote locations throughout the County, usually on mountaintops. Because of their location and the heavy forest fuels that may surround them, wildfires threaten many of these facilities on a regular basis. The locations of radio, television, microwave and cellular telephone antennas will be noted in this analysis.

County-wide Pre-Fire Management Plans

The 2004 CWWP has a different look from other agency specific plans. The overall County­wide prescription will include mitigation measures separate for geographic areas, agencies, and working groups. Only projects that span between multiple jurisdictions will be presented in the County­wide section.

Many of the assets at risk from major wildfires are located in the 1000­6000 foot elevations in the County. Homes, hydropower, water supply, timber, watershed and many other assets are at a greater risk in these areas. Fires that start in this corridor are more difficult to control, not only because of the more hazardous fire environment but also because of how the assets themselves affect firefighting operations. When initial attack resources are unable to contain a fire before it threatens structures, some or all of the firefighters must change their attack strategy from an offensive attack or perimeter control to a defensive attack or structure protection. If this situation occurs, the fire normally gets larger. By developing projects in the areas described above, fire agencies hope to reduce the threat to valuable assets, while at the same time improving the firefighter’s chances of controlling fires during the initial attack stage.

The CWPP working group used the following criteria for identifying and prioritizing fire plan projects in the County:

* Assets are at risk due to adjacency to high hazard fuels.

* Willing cooperators want to participate in the project.

* Fire Agencies are available and willing to develop, plan and implement the project.

* Cooperating fire personnel’s knowledge and expertise is highly considered.

* Grant funds have been secured.

* The CWPP working group, Strategic Group, or Fire Safe Council analysis identified the area as high hazard/risk.

* The area has had past fire and ignition history significant enough to warrant the project.

The table on the following pages lists the projects that are in the active, planning and conceptual stages. Projects which have recently been completed are also included in the tables. Later in this document, most of the projects listed have descriptions that give further details of the project activities.

Tuolumne County 2003 Pre­Fire Management Plan Project List

Tuolumne County Fire Marshal WUI Mitigations

In order to mitigate the wildland fire problem in Tuolumne County the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Tuolumne Calaveras Unit Chief and The Tuolumne County Board Of Supervisors directed the Tuolumne County Fire Marshal to make the following amendments to the County’s adopted Ordinance Codes for the California Building Code (CBC) and California Fire Code (CFC) and the Fire Safe Regulations with Public Resources Code 4290 and 4291;

Defensible Space

A. “Defensible Space” is the area within the perimeter of a parcel where basic wildland fire prevention practices and measures are to be implemented and maintained, including but not limited to removing brush, flammable vegetation, or combustible growth that is located from 30 feet to 100 feet from a building or structure measured from the eaves, porches, decks and balconies to the property line, to provide the key point of defense from an approaching wildfire or an escaping structure fire.

The desire for view lots and the County’s hilly terrain mean homes are more frequently being built on challenging odd­shaped and steep parcels. Based on the combination of exceptions listed below, which focus on Fuel Reduction for the wildland and Fire Safe Construction built into a home, not only will the structure itself be safer to defend (or even able ôdefend’ itself) should a fire occur, but adjoining wildland will also be offered some protection.

A request for an exception to Defensible Space and Fuel Modification shall be made in writing to the inspection authority (FPB) by the applicant or the applicant’s authorized representative. The request shall state the specific section(s) for which an exception is requested, material facts supporting the contention of the applicant, the details of the exception or alternative measures proposed, and shall include a map showing the proposed location of the exception or alternative measures and a written summary of the exception or alternatives. Exceptions or alternative measures shall be limited to the following:

Defensible Space may be reduced when the applicant or his/her authorized representative submits a comprehensive fuel reduction plan to the inspection authority (FPB). Once the fuel reduction plan is approved by the inspection authority (FPB), the plan shall be implemented and completed prior to approval of the Final Parcel or Subdivision Map, or prior to conducting a final inspection under a building permit, or issuing a building permit. Implementation and completion shall be documented and approved by the inspection authority (FPB).

The following alternative measures or others may be granted by the inspection authority (FPB) when Defensible Space requirements are physically impossible to meet and the alternative measures substantially reduce the fire hazard to a level equivalent to that of the Defensible Space, are agreed upon by the applicant prior to the issuance of a Building Permit and are completed prior to the final inspection or the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the Building Permit:

A residential fire sprinkler system meeting the requirements of NFPA 13 D, with the addition of pilot fire sprinkler heads in the attic, and a minimum of one hour­fire resistive construction on the structure’s exterior, including accessory attachments with habitable spaces and projections, such as eaves, decks and porches shall be a minimum of one­hour fire resistive construction, heavy timber construction or constructed of approved non­combustible materials and shall have the under floor enclosed within six inches of the ground. Final inspection and approval is required by the inspection authority (FPB).

Fuel breaks or maintained green belts with other alternative built­in fire protection measures which may be granted by the inspection authority (FPB) based upon certain modifications of the California Building Code standards for one­hour fire resistive construction installed on the exterior of a structure including the eaves, decks and porches.

Defensible Space shall not be reduced to less than six (6) feet from the overhang of the eaves on the affected side requiring the Defensible Space.

B. Fire flow

Assure the needed amount of water is on site to keep a fire from spreading from a commercial structure under construction to the wildland or forest. Fire protection water flow must be on the parcel and available through a fire hydrant at the time of issuance of a building permit as outlined in Section 15.20.010(A) of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code. (CFC Amended).

C. Fireworks

To continue to keep the number of fire starts down from fireworks Section 15.20.080 of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code is adopted to prohibit the use of certain fireworks throughout the County including all Fire Districts and further regulate public fireworks displays to reduce the fire hazard and augment the provisions of the California Fire Code, Article 78 and Article 11, Section 1101, Division II, Appendix II­A, Section 10.

D. Woodshakes

The County’s hot dry summers and continuing building boom with the smaller than ever volunteer fire department makes getting enough equipment and firefighters to a single fire a challenge for the Assistant Fire Warden. Section 15.20.025 of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code is adopted to prohibit wood shakes, wood shingles and other wood roof covering materials in all roof covering classes and walls for all structures, except for historic resources or minimal repair of existing roofs or walls to prevent the spread of fire caused by flying embers and further stress the fire department during a fire.

E. Roads

The heavy traffic congestion on the county’s narrow, steep and winding major roads and thick roadside vegetation act as a barrier for timely responses of firefighters. The construction of 20 foot wide travel ways, with safe access length limits on roads and proper identification of such roads is needed to allow a speedy response time for firefighters throughout the year as outlined in Section 15.20.045 of the County Ordinance Code amending the California Fire Code Section 901.4.5 and Section 15.20.050 of the County Ordinance Code supplementing California Fire Code Section 902 and PRC 4290.

F. Driveways

Section 902, Fire Department Access, of Article 9 is supplemented by the provisions of sections 15.20.050 T.C.O.C. and PRC 4290. Creating a Residential Driveway 12 feet wide or allowing two parcels to share a common driveway if it is 18 feet wide and the required slope, turnouts and turn around are installed to safely allow firefighters to move from one home to the next and protect them during a wildland fire.

G. Addressing

Section 901.4.4, Premises identification, of Article 9 is supplemented by the provisions of sections 15.20.040 and 4290. Creating identification of building locations with reflective street number signs posted steetside or, if the home is more then 50 feet from the street, posted at the road. It is vitally important that such identifying signs be maintained to assist firefighters responding to fire callouts. The County’s narrow, steep, winding roads, rolling hills and thick roadside vegetation act as barriers for viewing address and identification on buildings and homes as firefighters try to achieve timely responses during wildland fires or incidents that threaten the wildland.

Policy Change

H. Propane Tanks

As the building boom continues, each home is built with a single LPG tank for fire fighters to protect during a wildland fire or structure fire. Under the guidelines outlined in the CFC and NFPA the Fire Marshal is now giving homeowners the options to have the tank installed underground which has proved safer during a wildland fire.

I. Recommended Changes to Land Use and Development in the Future

Focus more on the maintenance of the fuel treatments or roads.

Approve a variety of fire resistant siding material to be used on the exterior of all new homes under construction.

Develop a residential fire sprinkler ordinance, which includes some exterior protection for homes on steep slopes.

Require subdivisions with over 12 parcels to have a community propane system.

Each CWPP project shall comply with all Federal, State, and County Laws, Regulations and Locally Adopted Ordinances

County­-wide Plan

The summaries for the County­wide high hazard fuels and assets at risk are given in a previous section of this document. This section of the plan will only explain the mitigation measures that are being implemented on a County­wide basis to reduce the hazard and risk.

County-­wide High Hazard Fuels

County­-wide High Hazard Fuels Mitigation Prescriptions

The County­wide prescriptions are listed below:

Calaveras Tuolumne Fuel Break

The Calaveras Tuolumne fuel break is a cooperative fuel break system with the USFS, BLM, California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR), Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) and local landowners in both Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. The USFS, CDPR and SPI have been performing various fuel reduction projects on their own property. The USFS and SPI have logged, performed biomass operations and completed prescribed burns on their land. The CDPR has completed various fuel reduction and prescribed burn projects. The Calaveras State Park 2001 WUI Grant Project mentioned earlier is part of this fuel break system.

Many values, both public and private, are at risk from wildfires that burn in the project area. This area covers thousands of acres of prime timberland owned by Sierra Pacific Industries, the USFS and many other private individuals and government agencies. It also includes the Stanislaus river watersheds which feed numerous hydroelectric and water supply facilities. The recreation industry is a major component in the local economy in Tuolumne County. Major wildfires have, in the past, contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the local recreation and tourist industries. There are many residential and commercial structures that have been burned or damaged by wildfire in this area. This fuel break system will help firefighters control wildfires before they result in unacceptable government costs and citizen losses.

All of the proposed fuel breaks have been strategically located to maximize the efforts of fire control resources in wildland fire situations. Several sections of this fuel break system were used to contain the Darby Fire in 2001 as noted in the Pre­Fire Success Stories. Another portion of the existing fuel break system was used to stop the Old Gulch fire in August 1992, which had already cost the state $12.2 million in suppression costs. Without this fuel break, the Farsite fire prediction program and local fire professionals estimated that the fire would have burned an additional 5,000 to 10,000 acres. This would have increased the suppression costs by $5 to $10 million in addition to causing extensive resource and property damage. The area encompassed by this fuel break system has had numerous major wildland fires in the past, which have cost the state millions of dollars in suppression costs. This system has already saved the state great expense. Its expansion will provide further savings.

This fuel break system will be an ongoing project that will utilize CDF inmate crews to construct and maintain the proposed and existing fuel breaks. SPI will continue to do focused logging, biomass operations and prescribed burning on the fuel breaks on their land. All of the cooperators will continue to use their resources to assist with the construction and maintenance of the fuel breaks.

An estimated 15­20 miles of fuel break work has been completed on this system since 2000. The USFS logged, used CDF crews and contracted to have dozer and mastication work done in the Winton Road area and also several areas on the Highway 4 corridor. SPI has continued their diligent fuel break efforts in Tuolumne County. The Calaveras County Water District 2002 WUI Grant Project is also a part of this system.

Forest Fuels Reduction Program in FY­2004: The Stanislaus National Forest completed fuels reduction on 4,113 acres. The majority, 2,707 acres, of the area treated was in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and 1,406 acres in the non­WUI.

Acres by treatment type:

Mechanical acres: 2,770 WUI acres: 1,409 Non­WUI acres: 1,361

Prescribed fire acres: 918 WUI acres: 873 Non­WUI acres: 45

An additional 771 acres were treated with the implementation of three Fire Use fires and another 425 acres was treated under miscellaneous activities.

Stewardship Projects in FY­2004: The Granite Stewardship Project is a continuing multi­contract project area of 8,000 acres. It includes thinning in dense plantations to promote stand vigor and reduce flammable forest fuels and to reduce the threat of wildfire caused erosion into streams. Also included are repair or retirement of un­surfaced roads to minimize erosion, and restoration of ground holding capacity of meadows and stream corridors to provide natural storage and gradual release of groundwater through the summer. The project will reduce the chance of a catastrophic fire, protect the watershed, and enhance water resources.

Biomass Programs: The Stanislaus National Forest has an active fuels reduction program which includes commercial green sales. These sales include a large biomass component to support two co­generation plants in Tuolumne County.

County­Wide Assets at Risk

County Wide Assets at Risk Mitigation Prescriptions

Community Assistance Grants: Eight grants were coordinated by the Forest and awarded to communities and counties for $447,329. Three grants for $154,000 were awarded under the National Fire Plan to FireSafe Councils and homeowners associations. The money was used to mechanically treat and construct 1500 acres of fuel breaks in the WUI.

The remaining five grants for $293,329 were awarded under the Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) program. This money was used on private property for fuels reduction, construction of fuel breaks, fire access road maintenance, and vegetation management after fuels reduction.

2001 Fire safe Council Formation Grant Project

In March 2001, a grant application was filed with the Stanislaus National Forest for the USFS Dependent Rural Communities Grant to seek funding for the Fire Safe Council Formation Project. This project was proposed to expand the original Tuolumne Fire Safe Council into four new Fire Safe Councils centered on each of the four east­west State Highway Corridors (Highways 26, 4, 108 and 120) in the County. The Fire Safe Councils will be a coalition of government, public and private sector individuals and organizations that share a common, vested interest in wildland fire prevention and loss mitigation for the area. The four councils will provide a needed link for input and cooperation between the public and private sectors to the fire agencies in the development of projects for the National and California Fire Plans. In September 2001, the Stanislaus National Forest awarded CDF with $101,300 to contract with a consultant who would coordinate the formation of the new fire safe councils.

In September 2002, CDF awarded the coordinator contract to Mark Valle of Corporate Visions from Carlsbad, California. Mr. Valle met with County staff in October to formulate a list of potential council members and develop a plan for starting the councils. The first meetings of all four councils were held the first week of November and things took off from there. The Calaveras Foothills (Northern Calaveras County area), Sierra Highway 4 (Southern Calaveras County area), Highway 108 (Northern Tuolumne County) and Yosemite Foothills (Southern Tuolumne County) Fire Safe Councils formed after these meetings. The councils are now non­profit corporations certified by both the State of California and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The councils have been developing and presenting their strategies to spread the fire safe message and reduce the wildfire hazards that exist in their communities. They are working hand­in­hand with the fire protection agencies within each council’s geographic area.

The original ending date for this grant was June 30, 2003, but since Corporate Visions submitted a low bid, there were additional grant dollars available to extend the contract. CDF staff submitted a request to extend the grant and contract through September 30, 2003. During this period, Corporate Visions was paid an additional $8,000 to continue assisting with council administration, perform a grant search to seek funding to pay for coordinators and develop a fund raising campaign for each council. All councils except for the Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council participated in the contract extension. They elected to run their council on their own without the services of Corporate Visions. The grant and contract were completed September 30, 2003. Corporate Visions was paid a total of $88,300 for their services.

2001 Fire safe Council Operating Costs Grant

After the Stanislaus National Forest awarded the grant to contract with a coordinator to expand the current Tuolumne Fire Safe Council to four new Fire Safe Councils, CDF pre­fire management staff applied for the 2001 Community­Based Wildfire Prevention Grant through the Sacramento Regional Foundation. CDF was awarded $20,000 to provide operational funds for information and education materials, and general expenses to each of the four new Fire Safe Councils to assist in their establishment and planning for the next 18 months. The four councils used this money to file for corporate and non­profit status, provide travel expenses for Mark Valle to attend the statewide Fire Safe Council meetings, and purchase supplies, brochures and marketing materials. This grant ended on June 30, 2003.

2004­2005/Today’s Tuolumne County Fire Safe Councils

The Highway 108 Fire Safe Council has had an amazingly broad range of community participation since its inception. Representatives of the MeWuk Tribal Council, the environmental community, the timber industry, various homeowners associations, managers of recreational camps, officials from local fire agencies, employees of the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, County supervisors and other County officials, a number of business owners, and other interested individuals have all regularly attended Fire Safe Council meetings and actively participated in community education efforts.

The Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council has also had a similar outpouring of broad public participation from a diversity of community interests.

Evacuation Plans

The CWPP, Fire Safe Councils, and Strategic Groups need to continue work on evacuation plans. These plans should include alternative travel routes, identification of evacuation centers, and public education. Grants have been obtained in the past and should be sought in the future to accomplish this work. Furthermore, all communities at risk need a plan developed for their respective areas, alternative routes, evacuation centers predetermined, and community education programs delivered.

County­Wide Ignition History

County­Wide Ignition History Summary

The 2003 Fire Season in the Tuolumne County was mild with below average ignitions, and below average acres burned. There were 388 fires in the County in 2003 compared to a five­year average of 409. Acres burned were 4450, which compare to a five­year average of 7776. 30137 acres burned during the 2001 season. The leading causes of fires during the 2003 season were vehicle use followed by arson, equipment use, and miscellaneous causes (see Ignition Spot Map). During the 2002 season the leading causes of fires in order were; vehicle use, arson, miscellaneous, and undetermined. 2003 ignition management projects focused on reduction of equipment caused fires, reduction of fireworks related incidents during the 4th of July period, close monitoring of arson fire activity, and tighter burn permit administration.

Ignition Spot Map (not available here)

County­Wide Ignition History Mitigation Prescriptions

Focus of the 2004/2005 Ignition Management Plan will primarily be a continuation of the activities initiated in 2002/2003 to deal with equipment caused fires, arson fires, 4th of July fireworks activities, and burn permit escapes and violations. The specific actions for each category are as follows.

Of primary concern with respect to equipment caused fires is the negligent use of mowers and trimmers. During 2001 mowers and trimmers caused 37 fires including the 5167 acre Leonard Fire. This figure dropped to 10 in 2002 and 15 in 2003 after a substantial increase in public education through Red Flag VIP patrols, roadside signs, newspaper articles and adds, radio spots, fair/event displays, and informational handouts at the fire stations. The County will continue the same actions during 2004.

Arson caused fires have been on the increase in the County and saw a substantial jump (62 fires) during the 2002 season. During the 2003 season, those numbers dropped somewhat to 47, which is still above the 5­year average of 44. Close monitoring and investigation of these fires has been and will continue to be a priority of the County Law Enforcement section to develop patterns of occurrence and suspects so as to lead to future arrests.

Historically, illegal fireworks activities during the 4th of July period have caused both increased fire occurrence and equipment draw down due to the large call volume. Red Flag VIP patrols, accompanied by Agency Law Enforcement patrols have been an effective deterrent of fire occurrence in specific trouble spots. The subdivisions and recreational facilities around the major lakes/reservoirs are the primary target areas for this activity. Of particular interest will be the Tulloch Lake subdivision where “dangerous fireworks” have been prevalent.

The Stanislaus National Forest has a tremendous amount of public recreation activity during fire season. USFS law enforcement, along with 12 fire prevention law-enforcement units, patrol and issue fire permits during the fire season. Fire restriction implementation and enforcement during the peak fire season has reduced a number of potential fires each year. Several public fire education programs and fire information boards are utilized throughout the season.

Due to the County’s large number of issued burn permits (estimate 8000 + in 2004), burning violations and escapes have been frequent during the spring, early summer, and fall. The implementation of a Statewide Fire Season burning suspension has substantially decreased the number of ignitions from this category, and should be continued annually. For the past three years, there has been increased tighter controls on permit issuance and increased law enforcement action on violators to help reduce the number of these incidents. This will continue.

County­Wide Large Damaging Fire History Summary

The Tuolumne County Fire History Map shows that Tuolumne County has had a significant history of major fire incidents over the last 50 years. Almost every community in the County has been threatened by wildfires that have occurred during this period. The greatest hazard to these communities due to the fuels, weather and topography exists on and east of the Highway 49 corridor. The Lake Don Pedro area is an example of an area outside this corridor threatened on a regular basis.

As mentioned in the Fire Environment section of this document, conditions that lead to the occurrence of major fires exist throughout much of the fire season. The question to ask is not, “Will a major fire occur?” but “When will a major fire occur?”

County­Wide Large Damaging Fire History Mitigation Prescription

Most of the mitigation measures that will help reduce the occurrence of large damaging wildfires are addressed in the battalion plans. One County­wide project is the Tuolumne County Pre­Attack Plan. It is described below.

Tuolumne County Pre­Attack Plan

The Tuolumne County Pre­Attack Plan Project will utilize the experience of personnel and data from past studies and fires to develop a pre­attack plan for the County. This information will be used to create detailed maps and databases that firefighters can use to develop plans for fighting future wildfires.

Information incorporated into the plan will include: fuel breaks; water sources; staging area locations; incident base locations; helibase locations; past fire history; remote structure locations; etc. This project is in the developmental stages and will use experience gained from the SWIFT Pre­Attack Plan Project during its implementation.

Major Fire History Map (not available here)

North County Plan

The North County is primarily the area considered but not limited to the Highway 108 Strategic Group’s area of influence. The CWPP group did not want to create new boundaries for its group but decided to look at the entire county as its boundary. However, the group did not want to “re­invent” work already in progress.

Nearly all of the North County is classed as Very High Fire Danger Rating. Fuels models range from grassland (FBPS FM1 and 3), brush (FBPS FM 4) and oak woodland in the western portion to oak woodland, brush and timberlands in the areas bordering the USFS DPA line to the east.

The battalion is the most heavily populated in the County and has the highest density of Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). This area also historically has the most fire ignitions as a result of the population density.

North County High Hazard Fuels Mitigation Prescriptions

* Highway 108 Strategic Planning Group: The Highway 108 Strategic Planning Group was formed to plan and coordinated pre­fire management activities on the Highway 108 corridor and serve as the strategic arm for the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council. Members of this group are from local, state, and federal agencies (fire and non­fire protection), industry and local government. They operate using the same concept as the SWIFT Project. The experience and expertise of all those involved has resulted in better project identification, coordination and implementation. This group will work hand­in­hand with the newly formed Highway 108 Fire Safe Council.

* Mi­Wuk Fuel Break: The USFS has begun work on the Mi­Wuk Fuel Break on national forest land behind the community of Mi­Wuk. The fuel break is being constructed between the Mi­Wuk Village subdivision and the North Fork of the Tuolumne River. It will extend to the southwest to tie in with the proposed Tuolumne City Fuel Break. A series of prescribed burns will also be performed in the river canyon below the fuel break to enhance the fire protection in the adjacent communities.

The Mi­Wuk/Sugarpine Fire District received a grant (over $70,000) from the Stanislaus National Forest in 2001 to enter into a contract with the CCC to have crews create a fuel break on portions of private property on the Mi­Wuk Fuel Break. This section will link to USFS fuel breaks that have been completed on both ends of the project. CDF entered into a VMP agreement with the private property owners to implement the project. This project should be completed in 2004 with an additional grant award of $50,000.

* Ponderosa Hills Project: A working group was formed in the summer of 1997 to assess the wildfire risk and hazard in and around the Ponderosa Hills subdivision in Tuolumne County. This group included members from state, federal and local government agencies, and a concerned resident of the subdivision. The objective was to develop a plan to mitigate the hazardous situation in this area.

The subdivision and surrounding area have the components that lead to large, damaging fires. Dense fuels, steep slopes and a significant major fire history exist here. Numerous major wildfires have threatened the subdivision in recent years with the Rogge fire of 1996 being the last. All of the major fires originated south of the subdivision, but the fuels, local winds and topography within the subdivision pose a great wildfire threat.

In 1999, CDF, USFS and Tuolumne County began working on detailed maps of the subdivision and adjacent area that would show evacuation routes, water sources, parcels, fire history and other specific data for the area. The plan included the creation of databases that will contain critical information for emergency services officials to use in the event of a wildfire. As part of the Ponderosa Hills 2002 WUI Grant Project, while CDF personnel performed LE­38 inspections on the individual lots, they also collected detailed fuels and structure protection data on the subdivision. This data will be available to firefighters when fires threaten the subdivision.

It is anticipated that the working group will develop future projects in the subdivision area to reduce the fire hazard. Fuel breaks and other techniques will be used to modify the fire environment in the area.

* Tuolumne Rancheria Project: The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Baseline Conservation Camp crews started working on the Tuolumne Rancheria Project in 2001. The objective of this project was to remove the heavy fuels that were around homes and along the perimeter of the Rancheria. It is estimated that over 20 acres have been treated since the project began. Prior to this project, the BIA had worked on mechanically treating fuels on the property boundary. This project lies within both the Highway 108 Strategic Plan Group and Ponderosa Hills Project area, and an official from the Tuolumne Rancheria is a member of both of these efforts. The Mi­Wok tribe also received funding in 2004 for a chipper County and has formed a crew of employees to operate the County within a 15 mile radius of the Rancheria.

* Ponderosa Hills 2004 RAC Grant: This grant project was awarded $24,000 to create a demonstration project fuel break between the Tuolumne Rancheria and the Ponderosa Hills subdivision on a portion of Skyline Drive near Turnback Creek. The Highway 108 Fire Safe Council is the lead contact for this project and is coordinating and obtaining all agreements with the affected landowners. The goals of this project are to demonstrate a scenic and effective fuel break that is contiguous to the residential structures along Skyline Drive, and to serve as the first phase of a planned fuel break around the west and south­west areas of this subdivision. Work is scheduled to commence in June 2004 and be completed within 30­45 days.

* Greater Twain Harte Fire Safe Program: This $90,000 project was awarded to the Twain Harte Community Services District and the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council in June of 2004. The project consists of a cost share arrangement using grant funds to offset the costs of transporting yard debris generated from homeowners complying with PRC­4291. A central collection facility and tub grinder are being established off Plainview Road (old Twain Harte dumpsite) at the west entrance to Twain Harte on Highway 108. A working group has been established and has developed a database for 5000 homeowners located inside the project area. Optional free drop off of accepted materials is also part of this program. Organic material that is chipped in the tub grinder is being transported to co­generation plants for electricity generation with proceeds returning to the program.

* Sugar Pine Fuel Break: SPI officials and Sierra Resource Management developed the Sugar Pine Fuel Break Project in 2002. This fuel break is between the North Fork Tuolumne River and the communities of Sugar Pine and Long Barn, and connects to the Mi­Wuk Fuel Break to the west. It is part of the fuel break system proposed by the Highway 108 Strategic Plan Group. Timber harvests, thinning and mechanical fuel reduction measures will be used to treat the fuels. Both SPI and Sierra Resource Management are members of the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council and Highway 108 Strategic Plan Group, which also support this project.

* Tuolumne City Project: Tuolumne City is located near the canyon rim of the North Fork of the Tuolumne River. This area has been threatened numerous times by wildland fires that have originated in the river canyon. Protecting the city and surrounding areas from these fires has cost the emergency fund several million dollars. The most notable are the Graham Incident of August 1996, which cost the state over $1.2 million and the Stanislaus Complex of September 1987, with a cost of $1.6 million. This project will substantially decrease the cost of providing protection for this area when future fires occur.

The project will be a cooperative project between CDF, BLM, USFS and local landowners. It consists of a 5 mile fuel break on the ridge north of the Tuolumne River canyon. The fuel break will provide a point of controlling any future wildland fires that originate in the canyon.

The Tuolumne City Project is one of a series of projects that will focus on protecting the commCountyies and other values that are at risk from wildfire in the area surrounding the North Fork of the Tuolumne River. This project will tie into the Ponderosa Hills Project to the east, which in turn joins with STF Fuel breaks.

Not only are structures at risk, but also the valuable watershed would sustain major damage should a wildfire occur in this area. Damage to this watershed would affect hydroelectric facilities, the timber industry, domestic water supplies, recreation facilities and many environmental resources in and downstream from the project site. Past fires in this watershed not only cost the state and federal governments millions of dollars to suppress, but also inflicted great monetary losses to public and private stakeholder assets.

* Columbia State Historic Park/Cattle Drive Trail Fuel Break and Fire Defense Access Project: This project was submitted for funding in 2003 through the National Fire Plan WUI Grant process, but was not funded. The project is a planned fuel break on both private and public parcels north of the Columbia State Historic Park and south of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. The fuel break would connect Yankee Hill Road with Parrotts Ferry Road terminating on property owned by Blue Mountain Minerals. Also included in this proposal is a removal of overgrown fuels along several access roads (Experimental Mine, Cattle Drive Trail, and Ponce Road).

* Cedar Ridge Project: The Cedar Ridge Project is in the developmental stage and will take place in the Highway 108 corridor between Sonora and Twain Harte. It lies in a heavily populated area between the South Fork Stanislaus River and Highway 108. This project will involve the creation of fuel breaks and the use of prescribed fire to treat the fuels adjacent to the fuel breaks. The USFS, CDF, BLM and private landowners will be main cooperators in these projects.

The Cedar Ridge Project will use the same treatments as the Mi­Wuk Fuel Break on the south canyon rim of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. The communities of Phoenix Lake, Cedar Ridge, Crystal Falls and Twain Harte will also be protected by these mitigation measures. The stepped­up fire safe inspection program performed in 2000 was a good start to the fire prevention effort in the Cedar Ridge area.

The Cedar Ridge area borders the USFS Sampson Project, in which one component consists of performing manual fuel reduction measures on the northern boundary of the Cedar Ridge subdivision. This treatment area is near the Creek Fire of 1994, which burned over 1400 acres of timber and threatened the subdivision. Crews have been thinning the vegetation adjacent to the subdivision in preparation for prescribed burns that are proposed for a later date. This is the first of a series of projects that are being planned in the general area.

* Peoria Flat­Rawhide Project: This is a fuel reduction project on Bureau of Reclamation property that extends from Baseline Conservation Camp to just south of the Rawhide Mobile Home Park. The vegetation in much of this area consists of heavy brush. New Melones Reservoir and Tulloch Lake are north of this project and it is not uncommon to get fire starts from boating enthusiasts recreating at these lakes. This project will give firefighters a safe place to both access and fight fires that occur in this area.

* Columbia Fire Chipper Project 2004 RAC Grant: This Grant was awarded to fund the purchase of a chipper and truck. This project is aimed at fuel reduction and landscape restoration in the greater Columbia Area. Homeowners and land owners will accumulate the fuel and then schedule the chipper to chip at their location. Volunteers are the source of labor for this project. Homeowners/landowners are encouraged to make financial donations to the Columbia Volunteer Fire Department to offset the cost of fuel and maintenance. This grant was coordinated with the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council.

North County Assets at Risk

North County Assets at Risk Summary

Within the 108 Strategic Groups influence there are many assets at risk which include all communities along the Highway 108 corridor including Jamestown, Sonora, Columbia State Historic Park, East Sonora, Phoenix Lake, Crystal Falls, Mono Vista, Tuolumne City, Twain Harte, Cedar Ridge, Big Hill, Mi­Wuk Village, Sugar Pine, Sierra Village, Confidence, Long Barn, Cold Springs, Pinecrest, and Strawberry. These communities represent a very large life hazard from the threat of wildfire. Nearly the entire commercial and economic base for Tuolumne County is located within this corridor. Other assets at risk include the timberland, watershed, recreational values, grazing/agricultural, and other scenic tourism assets.

North County Assets at Risk Mitigation Prescriptions

* The Ponderosa Hills 2002 WUI Grant Project – This project was developed to seek grant funds to reproduce fire safe public information pamphlets to distribute to each homeowner in the Ponderosa Hills area. The public information pamphlets were produced and contained information to help educate the local citizens on the wildfire problem in the area and how they can prepare their homes and families the next time a wildfire occurs. The pamphlets included: evacuation routes; “what to do in case of fire”; emergency radio stations; three types of evacuations; making your home fire safe; how to prepare your home for an oncoming fire; a map of the area displaying the evacuation centers; evacuation checklists; and other pertinent information for the homeowner that relates to wildfire safety. The pamphlets were distributed to the residents in Ponderosa Hills when fire safe inspections were performed in the spring of 2003.

The $2,213 BLM WUI grant funds have been used to reproduce the public information pamphlets and evacuation plan maps. The brochures were adapted to the local area from fire safe pamphlets created by the Butte County. The evacuation plan maps were created by GIS staff of the Tuolumne County Community Development Department. This project needs to be replicated for other areas.

The original grant proposal planned on duplicating 1000 copies of the maps and pamphlets, but due to higher printing setup costs, only 500 were printed. This is well over the amount necessary to provide a copy to every resident in the Ponderosa Hills subdivision. The intent of making 1000 copies was to provide the brochures to residents in communities adjacent to Ponderosa Hills that would use the same evacuation centers during major fires. Now that the brochures have been developed, they can be reproduced inexpensively for other communities in Tuolumne County. Only the maps would need to be updated for the intended communities. This was done through another grant in the Gibbs Ranch area near Sonora.

* Gibbs Ranch 2003 WUI Grant Project: Gibbs Ranch is a subdivision on the northwest side of the City of Sonora. This community is on the top of a steep hill above Highway 49 that is covered with dense vegetation. The Gibbs Ranch 2003 WUI Grant Project will involve the same process that was performed in the Ponderosa Hills 2002 WUI Grant Project. This project will help firefighters gather important information that will assist them in protecting this community the next time a fire occurs in the area. It will also educate the residents on what they can do to make their property more fire­safe.

* The Greater Twain Harte Fire Safe Program and Ponderosa Hills Skyline Drive Demonstration Project will also help protect the assets in this area.

North County Ignition History

North County Ignition History Summary

From 1998 to 2003, an average of 129 fires burned each year for a total of 65 acres annually. Ignitions from debris burning have been in steady decline since a high of 19 in 1998 to a low of 6 in 2002. In 2003 there was an increase in debris burning escapes to 10 from the previous year. This documents the effectiveness of placing a burn ban in effect during the fire season. Other ignition trends indicate moderate success in preventing fires from equipment use. Vehicle caused ignitions have remained high over the years, which appears to be consistent with the high volume of vehicular traffic on the main roadways within the geographic proximity of the corridor.

North County Ignition History Mitigation Prescriptions

* Fire Prevention Signs – Post fire prevention signs, to better educate the public on fire hazards and methods of prevention. Messages will target causes from equipment use.

* LE­38 Inspections – Utilize self inspection mailers throughout the greater Twain Harte area to bring 5000 properties into compliance with PRC 4291.

* Burn Permit Administration – Provide fire prevention education materials and positive agency contact with each permit, explaining fire safety tips. Also provide general guideline pamphlet for evacuations and home owner preparation.

* Enforcement of laws relating to wildland fire, including prosecution of arson type fires.

* Cite all debris burning violations and referral to Tuolumne County Air Pollution Control for citation.

North County Corridor Large Damaging Fire History

North County Large Damaging Fire History Summary

The Hwy. 108 corridor has a long history of large damaging fires since accurate records were begun after World War II. Historical fires are included in the table below. Seventy five percent of these large damaging fires occurred between mid June and Mid August. The table below shows many of the large fires that have plagued the North County.

North County Large Damaging Fire History Mitigation Prescriptions

* Initiate burn ban effective fire season 2005 for all open burning. This will eliminate fires cause from debris burning.

* Enforcement inside the Greater Twain Harte Fire Safe Program of PRC­4291 inspections and citations if needed during a focused inspection period to be conducted in late June early July, 2005.

* Aggressive fire cause and determination of all unwanted fire.

* Focused LE­38 program in the Gibbs Ranch area of Sonora with evacuation flyer distribution and explanation.

* Burn Permit administration and distribution in 2005 of evacuation flyer and distribution at the time of permit issuance.

* Continue fire prevention roadside program and update if grant funding becomes available.

* Continued fuel modification projects.

South County Plan

South County High Hazard Fuels

South County High Hazard Fuels Summary

The South County includes but is not limited to the SWIFT area of influence. The CWPP group did not want to create new boundaries for its group but decided to look at the entire county as its boundary. However, the group did not want to ôre­inventö work already in progress.

The areas around Lake Don Pedro, the community of Moccasin, and the Tuolumne River Canyon below the community of Groveland present the greatest threats in the South County.

South County High Hazard Fuels Mitigation Prescriptions

* The Lake Don Pedro area has large concentrations of brush. These brush areas pose a threat to the Lake Don Pedro community.

The following measures will take place to mitigate this hazard:

  • A focused hazard reduction program (LE­38 inspections) will be done in the areas adjacent to the brush concentrations annually.
  • The Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council will work with local landowners to reduce fuels on their property. The Don Pedro Homeowners Association provides a centralized location for property owners to dispose of vegetation. This project is in the planning stage.

* The Moccasin area has large concentrations of brush. The area south of Moccasin is in its second year of growth since the Creek Fire. The area around Priest Grade where the Moccasin Fire occurred in 1992 is in its 12th year of growth. The Moccasin area is in the Southwest Interface Team Project area. The following projects will help mitigate this hazard:

  • Tip Top Fuel Break – This fuel break is a cooperative effort between CDF and BLM to construct a fuel break that extends along ridges from Highway 120 west of Big Oak Flat northward to the shores of Lake Don Pedro. This is where the Moccasin Fire of 1992 burned, threatening the Big Oak Flat and Groveland communities. Since the fire, the heavy brush that existed prior to the fire has grown back presenting the same scenario as before. Planning for this project began in the fall of 2001. BLM will be financing the hiring of a contractor to masticate heavy fuels on both private and BLM property along the planned fuel break. It is anticipated that work will be completed in the spring of 2004.
  • Jackass Fuel Break – It begins on the ridgeline just south of Big Oak Flat and continues in a mainly southern direction to the Tuolumne/Mariposa county line. Status: Some of the fuel break is in maintenance mode, some is still being completed.
  • Hetch Hetchy/ Anker # 2 VMP – The Hetch Hetchy/Anker #2 VMP Project is a prescribed burn on HHWP, BLM and private land in the Moccasin area. This burn will treat the land south of Old Priest Grade between Highway 49 and Priest­Coulterville Road. The Creek Fire is the southern boundary of the project. In October 2002, 745 acres of Hetch Hetchy/Anker #1 VMP were prescribed burned over a two day period. Since the original VMP agreement expired in 2003, the Hetch Hetchy #2 VMP will be used to complete the final 518 acres of the project. Status: Agreements being renewed in the spring of 2004.
  • Old Priest Grade Fuel Break – Begins behind Priest Station and runs the ridgeline down to Moccasin. The Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council will be working with SWIFT to complete this project. This fuel break will be done by heavy equipment. Status: Planning stage.

* The Tuolumne River Canyon has steep, brush-covered slopes that have resulted in many serious threats to the communities directly south of the canyon.

  • Rim Truck Trail Fuel Break: This fuel break extends from the west side of Indian Creek westerly to north of Pine Mountain Lake, and then to Wards Ferry. This fuel break is 9 miles long. Status: Planning.
  • Pine Mountain Lake Project: The Pine Mountain Lake (PML) Project is an ongoing cooperative fuel reduction project between CDF and the PML Association, in the community of Groveland, within the PML subdivision. A private consultant developed a pre­fire management plan for the Association, which included removal of dense vegetation on 382 acres, and a focused fire safe inspection program on the homes and vacant lots within the subdivision. Work began in 1997. To date, mechanical and manual treatment has occurred on 160 acres. Of this figure, 81 acres were treated through logging operations to thin the forest prior to the use of other measures.

The Pine Mountain Lake #2 2002 WUI Grant Project is a fuel reduction project that utilized CDF fire crews to clear dense vegetation adjacent to homes in one of the treatment areas identified in the PML pre­fire management plan. Between December 1, 2002 and June 30, 2003, the crews used chainsaws and hand tools to manually cut, pile and burn dense vegetation that is adjacent to homes within the subdivision. This method was used on 20 acres that are inaccessible or too steep for mechanical equipment to safely operate. The $9,404 received through this BLM WUI grant was used to support the crews working on the project. The PML Project, through its fuel reduction measures, will help firefighters get a quick upper hand on fires that occur in the area, thus reducing the economic impacts on the community. The main problem that was encountered with this project is that the air pollution district declared many No Burn days, which slowed the disposal of the debris generated from the project. The piles that couldn’t be burned prior to fire season were burned in the fall and winter of 2003­04.

Southwest Interface Team (SWIFT) Project: For complete overview of SWIFT please see the attachment at the end of this document. This project is a cooperative project between the USFS, CDF (TCU & MMU), BLM, Mariposa County Fire Department, Tuolumne County Fire Department and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This project will be ongoing and will focus on the area of southeastern Tuolumne County, northeastern Mariposa, and southwestern Stanislaus National Forest (STF). This area has seen the most significant wildland fire history of all areas in the County. The team will perform an assessment of the area similar to that of the CWPP. Projects will then be developed to mitigate the hazard and added to the County CWPP. The team concept will ensure that all projects are coordinated between all agencies so that the maximum benefit will be achieved.

Since the inception of the Southwest Interface Team in 1999, many projects have been completed. This includes: 33 miles of fuel breaks; 5,497 acres of mechanical shredding; 3,865 acres treated using prescribed fire; and 1,700 acres thinned. Over 11,062 acres have been treated during this period. Scheduled treatments between March 2003 and December 2004 include: 7.5 miles of fuel breaks; 488 acres of mechanical shredding; 1,198 acres of prescribed burning; and 157 acres thinned. This will add another 1,843 acres to the total area treated.

Another project evolving from the SWIFT effort will be a wildland fire pre­attack plan for the project area. This plan will include the collection of specific GIS spatial data that will identify water sources, helispots, staging areas, structures, fuel breaks, and many other pertinent details that will assist in the fire control effort.

* Creek Fire Fuel Maintenance Demonstration Project: The 2001 Creek Fire consumed large amounts of brush fields on land near Highway 49 and Priest Coulterville Road. TUOLUMNE COUNTY and BLM fire managers are in the process of developing a plan to maintain the fuel modifications resulting from the fire on the burned BLM and possibly private land. The desired final fuel condition would be more grassland instead of the pre­existing brush fields. Officials are hoping to initiate a series of prescribed burns in future years.

The University of California Cooperative Extension has received a grant to study the effects that wildfires have on the soils and the vegetation that grows in previously burned areas. Repetitive burns will be conducted over sample areas to study its effects on the soils and returning vegetation. This will result in better information on the growth rate of wildland fuels after fires burn an area.

South County Assets at Risk

South County Assets at Risk Summary

South County includes:

* Concentrations of residential and commercial structures are in and adjacent to the communities of Groveland and Lake Don Pedro.

* The Priest Watershed provides water and power to the City of San Francisco. Soil erosion and ash from wildfires damage and degrade the water storage and power generating facilities.

* Don Pedro Reservoir provides irrigation water and power to the Turlock and the Modesto Irrigation Districts.

* The Tip Top Mountain Peak northwest of Groveland has communications vaults and various types of antennas. The antennas are used for radio, microwave, and cellular phone services.

South County Assets at Risk Mitigation Prescriptions

* Fuel Breaks – See Mitigation Prescriptions for High Hazard Fuels

* VMP – See Mitigation Prescriptions for High Hazard Fuels

* LE­38 inspections

* Fire Prevention Signs

* Burn Permits

South County Ignition History

South County Ignition History Summary

The Groveland and Moccasin area has experienced numerous major fires including the Creek, Moccasin, Priest, Ackerson, and Roggie Fires. The Fourth of July week at Lake Don Pedro Reservoir usually has an increase in fireworks caused fires. The majority of the Lake Don Pedro area fires are caused by vehicle and equipment use. The Groveland and Moccasin areas have a history of arson fires, but due to law enforcement efforts by BLM, USFS, and CDF there were no arson fires in 2003.

South County Ignition History Mitigation Prescriptions

* Fire Prevention signs

* Monthly fire prevention message in South County newspaper by Fire Safe Council.

* High visibility and patrol at Lake Don Pedro Reservoir during the Fourth of July week.

* Engine in 49’er parade in Groveland.

South County Large Damaging Fire History

South County Damaging Fire History Summary

The Groveland and Moccasin area has a history of large damaging fires. Fire history data indicates that a large fire occurs every other year in this area whether it is on Federal or private land. Frequent large fires in this area have caused increasingly serious losses of property and high­value resources.

South County Large Damaging Fire History Mitigation Prescriptions

Working with SWIFT, Yosemite Fire Safe Council, other community groups, and the agencies; enhancement of the strategic fire defense system in the area must occur. All of the fuels, assets at risk and ignition mitigation measures discussed above will help reduce the occurrence of large damaging fires.

Institutional and Other Issues

Although Pre­Fire Management projects provided great benefit to the citizens living in the County, they did impose an additional workload on Agency staff. Grant, contract and project administration took up an enormous amount of staff time. Almost all of the fuel reduction projects require a VMP agreement between project partners. This entails the expertise of a Forester to perform the CEQA/NEPA analysis for the project. The list below contains these institutional and other issues that have made implementation of the Plan, projects, grants and contracts more difficult.

CWPP Institutional Issues

Many institutional issues have made implementation of the Tuolumne County CWPP, projects, grants and contracts more difficult. These include:

1. The delay in announcing grants that were awarded through the National Fire Plan reduced the time frame to actually implement the grant projects.

  • a. This has frustrated both the agency chiefs and cooperator sponsors of these projects.
  • b. A more timely process must be developed to streamline grant award notification.

2. USFS contract equipment, crews and CDF fire crews have been very involved in the implementation of fire plan projects. There are not enough crews and equipment to support the work load generated by the CWPP. CDF managers in Sacramento, BLM, Park Service and USFS managers in Washington must continue to support the use of crews and equipment. Expansion of such programs must occur.

3. The National Fire Plan grants do not allow funding of maintenance projects that will treat fuels that have grown back in existing fuel breaks and treated areas.

  • a. The only way that most of these maintenance measures will take place is through the use of grant dollars.
  • b. Agencies, fire safe councils, and strategic groups must communicate this fact to the grantors, otherwise maintenance of past treatment efforts will never occur.

4. Prescribed burns have become more difficult to execute for the following reasons:

  • a. Implementation of more stringent air pollution rules – ôBurn Daysö occur less frequently than before.
  • b. More difficult to schedule equipment and personnel resources during fire season. Many burns were postponed or cancelled altogether because resources were committed to incidents or cover assignments.
  • c. Rain in early October has caused burns to be cancelled.
  • d. Due to lawsuits being filed against government officials following recent prescribed burn escapes that have caused property damage, many agency officials are not willing to assume that liability.

5. VMP Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for performing VMP’s in coniferous forests needs to be approved to avoid the current requirement of filing “Negative Declarations” for these VMP projects.

6. Need to integrate both NEPA and CEQA into a single checklist to prevent the necessity of duplicating these efforts on projects where the Federal agencies and CDF are partners.

7. Delay in processing the new Five Party Agreement has delayed projects.

8. There is usually not enough Agency staff available to identify, plan and implement Pre­Fire projects during the non­fire season.

9. Weather has affected project implementation in the following ways:

  • a. Snow at higher elevation projects has kept crews from working during the winter months. This has been an issue on 2 grant projects.
  • b. As mentioned above, rain has caused delays or cancellation of prescribed burns.

Existing Plans

Southwest Interface Project

Community Protection Planning

September 2004

Executive Summary

The Southwest Interface Project was initiated in March of 1999 as an effort to provide a higher level of wildfire protection in an area of repeated catastrophic wildfire history. The area located in southern Tuolumne and northern Mariposa counties in California had experienced significant losses to property and natural resources, and five firefighters had lost their lives over the last few decades fighting wildfires. Twelve concentrated human population areas along with twelve high value watersheds are located within the 132,000 acre project area.

The collaborative partnership that makes up the Southwest Interface Team known as SWIFT, continues after five years of work on its primary objective of protecting communities and the valuable watersheds from wildfire. There are two key elements utilized by SWIFT that allow wildfire protection planning and implementation activities in the project area to be identified as “Strategic.” Strategic Fire Defense Systems and Pre­Fire Planning actions are based on team identification of the best way to protect communities and watersheds under today’s environmental, economic, political, and social constraints and regulations. Dollars and actions are directed strategically at the highest priority areas.

Nine fire and land management agencies and two Fire Safe Councils that are affiliated with the collaborative partnership have developed the strategic fire protection plan and approved a coordinated program of work to insure implementation accountability. A number of key planning, implementation, and authoritative documents attest to the creation of a local stakeholder approved plan that should meet the criteria for the HFRA Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Resolution from both County Boards of Supervisor’s Memorandums of Understanding, formal Communication Plans, a multi­year coordinated Program of Work, and the Strategic Fire Protection Plan for the project area are all documented.

The communities covered under this plan are identified as the Highway 120 Community Protection Area in Tuolumne County. This area covers Groveland, Moccasin, Big Oak Flat, Second Garrotte, Big Creek Shaft, Yosemite Vista Estates, Hells Hollow, Smith Station, Buck Meadows, and Pine Mountain Lake. The other area in Mariposa County is identified as the J132 Community Protection Area which covers Greeley Hill and Coulterville.

Introduction

Collaboration, prioritized fuel reduction, and both Fire Safe Council and local fire agency involvement in reducing structure loss potentials is a primary objective of SWIFT. Working for over 5­1/2 years to provide a higher level of fire protection to the people, their property, and the many natural resources in the project area has always been a critical factor of team activity.

The Southwest Interface Project name was derived from the steep southwest facing slopes of the central Sierra Nevada Mountains where continuous and very volatile fuel beds of brush and timber interfaced with the communities lying along the mid elevations of the mountain range. All populated areas as previously identified can be considered at­risk communities. Within the last two decades seven major wildfire incidents have impacted the project area.

SWIFT identified where strategic implementation of a fire defense system would have the highest pay­off, and began putting past, present and future pieces together in a manner that displays the total fire environment for the project area. The priority hazard reduction measure as implemented by the Team has been shaded fuel break and road corridor fuel treatments. These are the two critical strategic fire defense system activities that can provide the highest level of fire protection for the threatened communities and watersheds. The development of Pre­Fire Plans was also a primary concern by the Team. Significant work has been on­going to collect and display information required by all emergency service personnel to facilitate a timely, accurate, factual and appropriate decision making process. Both the strategic fire defense system and pre­fire planning activities require long­term maintenance. The project program of work insures that maintenance is a key consideration for any activity planned.

The Community Wildfire Protection Plan

Step One: Convene Decision­makers

The South West InterFace Team (SWIFT) was formed in March of 1999. The collaborative partnership was established to mitigate the very serious wildland fire problems within a 132,000-acre area in southern Tuolumne and northern Mariposa County. The objective was to have city, county, state, federal, and local public participation through Fire Safe Councils to work cooperatively to help protect life, property, and natural resources from wildfires.

The Team consists of the following agencies/councils:

* California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection – Tuolumne/Calaveras Ranger Unit

* California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection – Madera/Mariposa/Merced Ranger Unit

* United States Department of Agriculture – Forest Service – Stanislaus National Forest – Groveland Ranger District

* United States Department of Interior – Bureau of Land Management – Folsom Resource Area

* City and County of San Francisco – Hetch Hetchy Water & Power

* Mariposa County Fire Department

* Tuolumne County Fire Department

* United States Department of Agriculture – Central Sierra Resource Conservation & Development

* United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resource Conservation Service

* Mariposa County Fire Safe Council and Greeley Hill Fire Safe Committee

* Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council

This is the group that collectively developed the Strategic Fire Plan for the project area. The plan was designed to apply fire protection activities based on pre­determined priorities to protect the citizens, their property, and natural resources from catastrophic wildfire.

These agencies/councils are local to the area and have either direct protection , land management, project support authority or public links and connections to the private stakeholders in the area.

Step Two: Involve Federal Agencies

As you can see by the team listing both the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have been involved in this fire protection project for over five years.

Step Three: Engage Interested Parties

SWIFT has had, and continues to have contacts with clubs, councils, residents, boards of supervisors, review teams, committees, conferences, workshops, agency leadership, and others to inform and update, and solicit support, comments, and recommendations about the projects activities. Contacts have been at the local, county, state, and federal levels.

The Fire Safe Councils continue to provide direct contacts with elected officials, local businesses, service organizations, property owners, residents, and other agencies in the area.

Step Four: Establish a Community Base Map

In 1999 the team identified and mapped a 132,000 acre area common to all agencies. Within the boundaries were communities and residential concentrations, and key watersheds for which all the agencies shared common protection problems and responsibilities.

Residential concentrations with regard to the community protection areas have been identified. The pre­fire planning identifies all existing and planned fire defense systems, and any infrastructure or other pertinent information which includes water sources, helispots, staging areas, safety zones, area hazards, jurisdictions, fuel types, special management zones, incident support facilities, and fire history. Infrastructure for public safety is identified as evacuation routes, evacuation sites, fire stations, medical facilities, and any law enforcement facility. (See Community Base Map)

Step Five: Develop a Community Risk Assessment

The “Catastrophic Fire Vulnerability Rating System” and the “Home Fire Risk Rating System.” The components of each of these systems are identified below:

The Catastrophic Fire Vulnerability Rating System

This rating system was designed to identify priorities with regard to communities and watersheds at­risk and to indicate wildfire protection strategies based on the vulnerability rating. This rating system complements what is used by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in their Ranger Unit Fire Plans. There are four rating categories:

Value: Any singular or mix of natural resources or property on a given land area that has either an actual dollar value or can be subjectively valued. (Assets at Risk – AAR)

Risk: Any fire ignition source, natural or person caused, coupled with large fire history data that indicates future catastrophic fire potentials. (Historic Fire Weather)

Hazard: All topographic and fuel indicators that influence fire behavior and produce catastrophic fire potentials. (Hazardous Fuels)

Suppression Capability: Actual response times for initial attack of a fire start, and how complex the actual suppression action may be based on fuel profiles such as structure and vegetation mixes. (Level of Service / LOS)

The rating system incorporates all factors identified in Step Five of the March 2004 “Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan” Handbook. There are four levels of rating in the system: Very High, High, Moderate, & Low. A summary of the rating calculations follows:

Watershed and Communities at Risk

By Priority

Vulnerability Protection

Watershed Name Populations at­ risk Rating Strategy Priority

_______________ __________________ __________ ______________ ______

Big Creek Groveland, Second Very High Fuel Breaks, Road

Garrotte, Hells Hollow, Corridors, FSC,

Smith Station, Big Pre­Fire Planning, #1

Creek Shaft, Yosemite Prescribed Burns

Vista, Pine Mountain *Infra

Lake

Bean Creek Greeley Hill Very High Fuel Breaks, Road

Corridors, Pre­Fire

Planning, Prescribed #2

Burns, *Infra

Moccasin Moccasin, Big Oak

Flat Very High Fuel Breaks, Road

Corridors, *Infra #3

Maxwell Coulterville High Prescribed Burns #4

Moore Creek Buck Meadows High Fuel Breaks, Road

Corridors, *Infra #5

Tuolumne River Isolated Moderate Fuel Breaks, *Infra #6

Merced River

(Lower) Scattered Moderate Fuel Breaks, *Infra #7

Smith Creek Scattered Moderate Fuel Breaks #8

Jordan Creek Minimal Low Road Corridors #9

Tuolumne River

South Minimal Low Fuel Breaks #10

Deer Lick Creek Minimal Low Road Corridors #11

Merced River

North Minimal Low Fuel Breaks #12

*Infra – Infrastructure support facilities for the fuel breaks and some road corridors to include: Helispots, water sources, staging area, etc.

Home Fire Risk Rating System

This rating system is just one of many the team has used to identify various levels of structure risk from wildfire. This particular system uses the rating components identified below:

Fuel Hazard Rating: This rating is based of fuel types and size classes and uses three different categories.

Slope Hazard Rating – The rating uses four types of slopes from 0% percent to 41% percent and greater.

Structure Hazard Rating – Structure roofs and siding are used to identify the ignitability rating.

Additional Rating Factors – Various plus and minus ratings are given to other categories that can help identify if a structure is more or less at­risk.

The rating system uses these four risk categories to determine if a structure is in an Extreme, High, Moderate, or Low Rating. A summary of the rating calculations follows:

Fuel Hazard Rating

Fuel Type Rating

Small, light fuels (grass, weeds, shrubs, brush) 1

Medium size fuels (brush, large shrubs, small trees) 2

Heavy, large fuels (woodland, timber, heavy brush, dead & down fuel loading) 3

Slope Hazard Rating

Slope

Flat to mild slopes (0­5%) 1

Moderate slopes (6­20%) 2

Steep slopes (21­40%) 3

Extreme slopes (41% and greater) 4

Structure Hazard Rating

Design Characteristics

Classified roof and noncombustible siding materials 1

Classified roof and combustible siding materials 3

Unclassified roof and noncombustible siding materials 7

Unclassified roof and combustible siding materials 10

Additional Rating Factors

Additional Factor

Rough topography that contains several steep canyons +2

Areas having history of higher than average large fire occurrence +3

Areas exposed to severe fire weather and strong winds +4

Areas with existing fuel modification or usable fuel breaks ­3

Areas with local facilities (water systems, fire districts, etc.) ­3

Calculate the Risk

Fuel Hazard ______ X Slope Hazard_______ = ___________

+ Structure Hazard ___________

+ or – Additional Factors ___________

Total Hazard Points ___________

Total Hazard Points ___________

Hazard Rating Calculations Extreme Wildfire Risk = 26+ points

High Wildfire Risk = 16 to 25 points

Moderate Wildfire Risk = 6 to 15 points

Low Wildfire Risk = 6 or less points

Assessment Considerations

A. Fuel Hazards

Significant work was done to identify the wildfire threat based on fuel types and topographic features that influence fire behavior. The project area has three basic fuel types that include oak­woodland, heavy mixed and continuous brush fields, and pine and mixed conifer timber types. All types are found on different topographic conditions that include steep v­shaped canyons to mild rolling topography. Of major significant with regard to the fuel hazard in the project area is that almost all of the communities at­risk lie above steep brush and timbered covered canyons. Over many decades the fuel and topographic conditions have proven to exhibit extreme catastrophic wildfire occurrence and potentials. (See Fuel Hazard Rating Map)

B. Risk of Wildfire Occurrence

The project area just in the last two decades has experienced seven major fire incidents. Over one­half of the project area has burned in this time period. Large fires have ravaged the area on almost a continual basis since records have been kept. This month (September 2004) a fire occurred within a mile of the project and claimed the life of another firefighter. Records are available to show numbers and types of ignitions. Human caused ignitions are common with arson, debris escapes, and smoking as leading contributors. About one­third of the fires are lightning caused. Fires that escape initial attack in the later part of the fire season are more than likely going to result in a major wildfire incident. (See Risk Occurrence Map)

C. Homes, Businesses, and Essential Infrastructure at Risk

All areas containing structures within the project itself are vulnerable to ignition from direct or indirect exposure to wildfires. Very few locations in any of the residential concentration areas are not subject to ignition by numerous means if a large incident occurs in their proximity. Extensive water and hydro­electric infrastructure is located throughout the area which supplies both San Francisco and California’s Central Valley. Over 2.5 million people are served in the San Francisco area alone. (See Risk Map)

D. Other Community Values at Risk

Numerous historical buildings, a Wild and Scenic River, critical fish and wildlife habitats, extremely valuable watersheds, and other values of both historical and cultural significance are at risk. (See Risk Map)

E. Local Preparedness and Firefighting Capability

The primary evacuation routes for the Groveland Protection Area is Highway 120 which basically runs east and west through the project area. For the Greeley Hill/Coulterville Protection Area Highway J132 and 49 are the primary evacuation routes. Fire protection is provided by the following agencies either through direct protection or by mutual aid:

* California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection – Fire Station in Groveland

* California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection – Fire Station in Coulterville

* Tuolumne County Fire Department – Stations at Moccasin and Smith Station

* Mariposa County Fire Department – Station at Greeley Hill and Coulterville

* U.S. Forest Service – Stations at Groveland Ranger Station and McDiarmid

* Groveland Community Service District – Stations at Groveland, Big Oak Flat, and Pine Mountain Lake

Numerous cooperators are signed­up with CDF and the Forest Service to provide all types of fire support assets on a local basis. (See Fire Capability Map)

Step Six: Establish Community Hazard Reduction Priorities and Recommendations to Reduce Structural Ignitability

For over five years the group identified as SWIFT which includes both agency and Fire Safe Councils personnel have been establishing hazard reduction priorities and recommendations to reduce structural ignitability. The Fire Safe Councils have had active involvement with the public to seek community input. In some areas of the project there is a level of apathy with regard for public participation in wildfire protection activities.

All projects that are identified in the community protection plan as recommendations for hazardous fuel treatments serve to protect the community and essential infrastructure or are geared toward reducing risks to other community values.

The following information relates to the Southwest Interface Project which is committed to protecting the communities and high value watersheds in the area. The recommendations are based on the key objective of protecting communities at high risk from catastrophic wildfire.

Step Seven: Develop an Action Plan and Assessment Strategy

The Action Plan is tied to the C.Y. 2005 and 2006 Coordinated Program of Work for the Southwest Interface Project. The project uses a 2 year program of work in its actual implementation cycle, but considers at least the next 8 years in a long­term maintenance schedule. The “Project Summary” indicates four key areas of work planned in the program of work to review as critical to the community protection effort:

* Strategic Fire Defense Systems

* Pre­Fire Planning Activities

* Grant Requests

* Research Projects

Under these various action plan considerations are listed a number of specific work activities that have been identified as extremely important in meeting the intent of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan. After extensive review by the core team of all the individual projects identified by the team the following list reflects those with the highest priority for implementation:

* Complete the Ponderosa Fuel Break System with all appropriate support infrastructure, and the development of a long­term maintenance plan.

* Complete the approved and recommended hazardous fuel treatment actions along Highway 120.

* Finish the Hetchy­Anker Vegetation Management Project (VMP)

* Continue Fire Safe Council activities in both counties, and implement the Hells Hollow Protection Plan after residential review.

* Complete 80% percent of the Pre­Fire Plan for the Project area.

* Continue working with the Fire Safe Councils and through SWIFT means to obtain grants for protection activities.

* Provide support to both the research activities on the Creek Fire and on the Mechanical Mastication work.

The assessment strategy for the CWPP can be found in a review of the documents and agency and Fire Safe Council participation and support over more than five years of SWIFT activities. The collaborative partnership that is SWIFT maintains a long term strategy of working together with the appropriate documentation to insure all parties that have projects planned, under contract, or being implemented are committed into the future.

Community Protection Action Plan

Project Name Action Type Target Cost Timetable Responsible Priority

____________ ___________ ______ ______ ________ __________ ________

Ponderosa Fuel Break 4 mile $88,000 2 mile 05 Forest Service 1

2 mile 06

Ponderosa Fuel Break 3 mile $66,000 3 mile 06 BLM 1

Highway 120 Road HRT 6 mile $126,720 3 mile 05 Forest Service 2

3 mile 06

Hetchy­Anker VMP 3 mile 06 Fall 2005 CDF

Hells Hollow CWPP 210 ac $115,500 – 2005 Forest Service 3

2006

Pre­fire Plan Plan Plan 2006 SWIFT 1

Grant Requests Infra Grant 1 $80.000 2006 SWIFT 4

Roads Grant 2 $187,000 2006 Forest Service 4

Creek Fire Rx Burn 800 ac. $67,000 2005 BLM 2

800 ac. $82,000 2006 BLM 4

Step Eight: Finalize the Community Wildfire Protection Plan

After over five years of committed activity to implement a positive and pro­active approach to community and watershed protection from wildfire, SWIFT feels it meets the intent of the community based planning direction as per HFRA legislation.

Community Profiles

The Highway 120 Wildfire Community Protection Area runs somewhat parallel with Highway 120 which bisects the Southwest Interface Project area in an east to west direction. The area can be found to the north and south of the highway at varying distances of up to 3 miles. The structures within the area include numerous small businesses to private residents located in isolated, grouped or concentrated settings. The population fluctuates from the winter to the summer season based both on tourist impacts and second home use. It is estimated that the area swells to over 10,000 people during the summer. The Pine Mountain Lake sub­division contains over 2,900 structures in a fairly concentrated area surrounding the lake. The primary businesses are located directly along Highway 120 with the majority located in the town of Groveland. Over 60% percent of the population that resides in the area can be considered as senior citizens. A number retirees from some of the Central Valley and Bay areas have relocated into the Groveland area. Considerable tourist traffic into Yosemite National Park occurs during the spring, summer, and fall. After the first good snowfall Highway 120 into Yosemite Park is closed. Tourist still access the valley floor and other park locations from the Groveland side by connecting to Highway 41. At the bottom of Priest grade at the far west end of the project is the City and County of San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Water and Power facility and the Moccasin Fish Hatchery. The small town of Buck Meadows is located on the eastern side of the project boundary on Highway 120. Business in the area is keyed to tourism, forestry, ranching, logging, real estate, and numerous other customers and local population service needs. Many facilities in the Groveland area are historic and recorded with the State.

The J132 Highway Community Wildfire Protection Area includes the communities of Greeley Hill and Coulterville in Mariposa County. Both communities can be found directly adjacent to the highway with numerous road arteries that generally run both easterly and westerly from the centers of each town. Coulterville relies on tourism as one of its major economic businesses as it lies on both J132 and Highway 49 that intersect the center of town. Greeley Hill has some tourist business along J132, but not to the extent of Coulterville. The Greeley Hill area has many structures that can be considered as grouped or isolated. In many cases they can be found a considerable distance from what would be considered the center of town. J132 runs in somewhat of a north to south direction from Highway 120 to the Greeley Hill Road then turns southwesterly into Coulterville. Populations for the two communities are estimated to be approximately 2,500 people total with up to 55% percent seniors residing within the communities. Tourism, ranching, and meeting both local and traveling public demands for services seems to be the primary business operations for the two communities. The Greeley Hill protection area stretches from the upper Wagner Valley to the southeast to below Date Flat. In places it is over 2 miles in width. The Coulterville area on the other hand is almost circular and reaches out from the center of town for over a mile. Structure concentrations as indicated in a town setting are not really apparent except for one area in Greeley Hill, but are definitely noticeable in Coulterville.

Southwest Interface Project

Project Reference Documentation

“Strategic Fire and Resource Protection Planning: A Process” Robert L. Irwin, William H. Bowman, Thomas E. James. October 1991.

SouthWest InterFace Team SWIFT and the Southwest Interface Project. “Cooperatively planning and implementing a strategic fire defense system designed to reduce the threat of loss to life, property, and resources in the Southern Tuolumne and Northern Mariposa county urban­wildland interface”. 2001, 2002 & 2003.

Southwest Interface Project “Profile and Program of Work”. C.Y. 2003 – 2004. April 2003

Southwest Interface Project – Photo Profile on Activities and Accomplishments. March 1999 to March 2004.

Southwest Interface Project Web­Page. http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/stanislaus/groveland/swift/ or southwest interface project. Up­dated April 2004.

Southwest Interface Project – Power Point Presentation. Last draft completed in November 2003.

Southwest Interface Project Map. Topography Map at 1:38,000 scale. Rich Strazzo (CDF) 1999­2004.

Highway 108 Strategic Group Project

This project is being finalized by the 108 strategic working group. Full adoption of the project is expected in January 2005 and will be submitted to the CWPP group for included.

[END]

fsc_caption_green