Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 @ 5:54 p.m.
Wildfire Plan Identifies Areas Of Concern In Greater Crescent City; CCPD To Transition To A More Thorough Reporting System
A plan outlying Del Norte County’s wildfire risk identified several neighborhoods in the greater Crescent City area as “areas of concern.”
Identified as potential sites for fuel reduction projects, these areas include timber-heavy lands between Church Tree and the Bertsch Tract to the east of Crescent City; land surrounding the Del Norte County Airport and Point St. George to the north; as well as the Howland Hill Road area leading to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, according to Crescent Fire and Rescue Chief Bill Gillespie.
The Community Wildfire Protection Plan 2020 left out a forested area within city limits that could be at risk, according to Crescent City Councilor Blake Inscore.
Inscore was referring to a tributary of Elk Creek that starts behind the Washington Boulevard fire station, stretches to Harding Avenue, skirts the cemetery and ends near Cooper Avenue and the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.
“That’s almost 45 acres of property that is a variety of trees, low lying brush and access into these areas is difficult,” Inscore said Monday. “They border onto critical areas of both residential as well as the school. I’m just surprised that area is not called out in the plan (for) the Crescent City specific portion. I realize there’s a lot of wetland underneath that, but it is by far the largest tree space we have within the city limits.”
The Community Wildfire Protection Plan was prepared for the Del Norte Fire Safe Council by Bridgeview Consulting LLC, of Tacoma, Washington, using a $114,870 grant U.S. Forest Service, Gillespie said.
The grant that came from the Forest Service and was filtered through the California Fire Safe Council included a match requirement of $121,500. According to Gillespie, that grant match was reached through in-kind work by the Del Norte Fire Safe Council and other entities it has worked with. On Monday, the fire chief asked the City Council as well as staff to log any time they spent working on the document. He also asked Mayor Jason Greenough to add his signature to the report.
The deadline for the final plan is Dec. 31, according to Gillespie.
“Receiving and supporting the plan represents zero cost to the city,” he said. “The plan may actually (identify) some grant opportunities within the city and the city’s sphere of influence to help address wildfire mitigation strategies.”
The areas of concern Gillespie highlighted included several greenbelts, particularly in the Elk Creek drainage between Elk Valley Road and Parkway Drive that aren’t accessible via road. Some mitigation ideas included brush clearing and, in the Point St. George area, a grazing project, he said.
Gillespie proposed a community chipper day where one or more wood chippers were brought into a central area for residents to use. People could also use the resulting wood chips for their own projects, he said.
Other mitigation ideas for wildfires included an address sign program; identifying additional water sources and water storage; developing educational programs in local schools including teaching kids about defensible space; as well as creating a food storage program for Crescent City and surrounding areas, Gillespie said.
“I thought that was interesting as we look at a lot of other hazards that can affect us like tsunamis and earthquakes,” he said. “This is something that could be a multi-type use project.”
The Community Wildfire Protection Plan also recommended seeking additional grant dollars to replace aging fire apparatus and equipment as well as pursue funding for recruitment and retention for volunteers and career personnel.
The plan also recommended working with the state to establish a priority-based firefighter 1 option either through the fire academy or College of the Redwoods, Gillespie said.
As for Inscore’s statement regarding the green space area between Washington Boulevard and Cooper Avenue, Gillespie said that area is heavily used by transients. Under the right conditions, for example during an easterly wind and higher than normal temperatures like those that helped fuel the Slater Fire in September, that area could be a fire hazard.
“That may be a good candidate to try and look for funding to work with property owners and do some sort of shaded-type fuel brake where they get rid of material,” Gillespie said. “The other benefit of it is, when it’s limbed up and there’s visibility, it tends not to become habitat quite as much.”
Gillespie suggested that the city could partner with CalFire to bring an inmate crew into the area to do clearing and wood chipping.
Inscore said the city owns about half of the 45 acres that is in that area and could pursue grant dollars to do some work. He also said that since a recent Beachfront Park Masterplan update indicated residents want a natural resources theme to their park, the greenbelt area, with its natural wetlands, could be a tourist attraction.
“It’s an under utilized area,” Inscore said. “I don’t know if any of you have been back there, the transient population travels through there a lot, and if we have another really dry summer with winds just right we could see some damage and I don’t want to see that happen. I would like to see this as a possibility the Fire Safe Council could look at as maybe a project opportunity with the development of this plan.”
In other matters, the Crescent City Council unanimously approved a $15,000 budget transfer to the Crescent City Police Department to help it transition from the Uniform Crime Reporting system to the National Incident-Based Reporting System.
According to Police Chief Richard Griffin, this system would have been $25,000 had it not been for a discount Sun Ridge granted the city after it installed its record management system, RIMS, in 2018.
Transitioning from the UCR to NIBRS is mandatory, Griffin said. The new system provides more detailed information about an incident including an expanded description of the victim and offender, the property, drug types and quantity. It helps give the public context to a crime problem, Griffin said, allowing the police department to ask for resources based on trends.
“It could portray our crime rate (as) going to sky rocket,” Griffin said. “Now instead of having that one crime per incident reported, that incident could have up to 20 crimes reported. It’ll be a substantial increase in what appears to be a crime issue, but it’s not. it’s the same number of incidents occurring, it’s just better reported.”