Commission moves forward with drafting wildfire protection policy
At the Oct. 18 commission meeting, the division of forestry, fire and state lands approached Carbon officials concerning the creation of a community wildfire protection plan.
A public meeting will be conducted Nov. 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the College of Eastern Utah in order to gather information and input regarding the plan.
According to eastern Utah and Moab area manager Bill Zanotti, the federal government instituted legislation providing for the plans and funding after the devastating 2000 fire season.
The landmark 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act includes the first meaningful incentives for the United States Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to give consideration to the priorities of local communities while developing and implementing forest management and hazardous fuel reduction projects, pointed out Zanotti.
The area manager reported that Carbon County has been found to have six at-risk communities ranking in the high end of the 1-11 risk scale developed by the department.
In order for the communities to take full advantage of the newly available protection and funding, local officials must first prepare a community wildfire protection plan, explained Zanotti.
According to the fire division, the process of developing a protection plan can help a community clarify and refine priorities for the protection of life, property and critical infrastructure in the wildland-urban interface.
The process also can lead community members through valuable discussions regarding management options and implications for the surrounding watershed.
According to division representative Emily Gerry, the federal legislation is general in nature. Some communities may benefit from assistance on how to prepare protection plans.
To assist the commission and local community with the development of a plan, the division provided a handbook intended to educate communities with a concise, step-by-step guide to use in completing the process.
The outline offers several possible approaches useful in helping at-risk communities in helping at-risk communities in establishing a plan to protect itizens, homes, essential infrastructure and resources from the destruction of a catastrophic wildfire.
The minimum requirements for a CWPP are as follows
Collaboration: A CWPP must be collaboratively developed by local and state government representatives, in consultations with federal agencies and other interested parties.
Prioritized Fuel Reduction: A CWPP must identify and prioritize areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommend the types and methods of treatment that will protect one or more at-risk communities and essential infrastructure.
Treatment of Structural Ignitability: A CWPP must recommend measures that homeowners and communities can take to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the area addressed by the plan.
According to the outline Community fire protection need not by a complex process. A community can use the guide provided to develop a fire plan that is as extensive or as basic as is appropriate and desired by the community. A key element in fire planning should be the meaningful discussion it promotes among community members regarding their priorities for local fire protection and forest management. The state fire division stressed to the commission the importance of having good community participation at the meeting Nov. 8.
A checklist provided in the outline recommends; convening decision makers, involving federal agencies, engaging interested parties, establishing a community based map and the developing a community risk assessment. The risk assessment will help the core team and community members prioritize areas for treatment and identify the high priority uses for available financial and human resources.
Zanotti reported that of the $250,000 delegated to Carbon County $160,000 remained for continuing projects.
Their will be a meeting Nov. 4 with several of the cites within the county to start planning.