Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Three Rivers is in the process of forming a Fire Safe Council that will assist in reducing the risk of wildfire in the community.

Fire Safe Council will strive to create a 'fire adapted' Three Rivers

John Elliott


There’s probably no greater wildfire threat in the nation than the situation that exists in California foothills communities.  Last Saturday, Nov. 3, more than 40 local residents gathered in the sanctuary of Community Presbyterian Church to hear how one statewide agency — the Fire Safe Council — is reaching out to California residents to promote community awareness and access the ways and means to become fire adapted. 
No single person or even the local fire department can protect a town like Three Rivers. But through the Fire Safe Council, residents can mobilize to join forces to effectively reduce and prevent wildfire losses. 
Fire Safe Councils are grassroots, community-led organizations that mobilize residents to protect their homes and the immediate environment from wildfire. 
An introduction to how a Fire Safe Council might be created in Three Rivers was the message in a PowerPoint presentation by Stephen Gort, executive director of the California Fire Safe Council. Gort rarely recruits volunteers for a Fire Safe Council in a community (Three Rivers) served by three fire departments (Cal Fire, Tulare County Fire Department, and National Park Service). 
Yet Gort’s theme throughout was no matter what resources are available to respond when disaster strikes, there is no amount of preparedness or response to prevent the fire, only strategies to minimize risk and loss.
There are 150 communities that have formed local councils since the statewide organization was founded in the early 1990s. Due to the efforts of Elizabeth LaMar of Three Rivers, one of two grant specialists in the Council’s Ontario office, Three Rivers can fast-track their way to creating a local Fire Safe Council.
“Creating a council does not happen overnight,” Gort said. “It takes six to 10 months typically.  There are lots of meetings that must occur, and community members must get involved by volunteering and accomplishing some key tasks.”
Once the volunteers begin regular meetings, the first task is to produce a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The document enables each locale to identify strategic sites and methods for fuel-reduction projects across the landscape and jurisdictional boundaries, as well as critical evacuation plans.
Obviously, the first line of protection is what Gort called “…breaking up the continuity of the fuel.” In Three Rivers in past years including the current one, there have been Cal Fire seasonal property inspections but total compliance with 100 feet of defensible space is inconsistent. One property owner might create 100 feet of defensible space but their neighbor might not.