Council touts reducing fuels

Surrounded by attractive, but highly-flammable, wild rose, desert peach and sage brush, Alpine Fire Safe Coordinator Jeff Brees urged local residents to secure at least 100 feet of defensible space around their homes.

"Reducing the intensity of fuels, by interrupting the horizontal and vertical continuity, gives the firefighters a better opportunity to save your home," Brees said.

Brees has just returned home from fighting the Linehan wildfire near Carson City, where he battled flames for three nights with a scant six hours of sleep.

A Markleeville resident, Brees wears many hats.

Not only is he the Fire Safe Coordinator, but also the assistant fire chief of the Markleeville Fire Department, ski patroller, internationally-recognized topiary sculptor, husband and father.

He's been a Markleeville volunteer firefighter for 16 years. In his 30 years of working on and off at Kirkwood, Brees has worked with BLM in fuel reduction, run crews for erosion control and re-vegetation projects and developed a network of contacts with state and federal organizations.

Exciting news for Markleeville, Woodfords, Woodfords Colony and Hope Valley residents is the establishment of the first-ever Alpine Curbside Chipping Program, sponsored by the Alpine Fire Safe Council in partnership with the Lake Valley Fire Protection District. Establish defensible space by pulling out unsafe shrubs and bushes. Crews will chip all natural green vegetation back onto your property. Cuttings, with limbs no larger than 6 inches in diameter, should be placed near the side of the road, but not in the roadway or road ditch. This free service will be provided from July 31 to Aug. 4. For more information, visit or call 694-2791.

Alpine County has always lived with the threat of wildfire. The most destructive fire on the Sierra Front occurred in Alpine County in 1987 when 26 homes were lost. With increasing population in the county, this threat continues to grow. The Alpine Fire Safe Council seeks to reduce this threat by developing a coordinated planning effort to address the hazards in our communities.

Along with staff of Brees and Administrator Kerry Radelfinger, the Alpine Fire Safe Board of Directors consists of one Markleeville and six Woodfords members; Don Jardine, Chairman David Griffith, Vice Chairman Kim Chatfield, Shirley Taylor, Al Moss and Steve Yonker.

The AFSC is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to reducing the risk to life and property due to catastrophic wildfires and was formed in 2003 after the Resource Advisory Committee granted funds from Title II of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000. Although most of what the AFSC does could and should be done by local government, as a nonprofit corporation, the AFSC is eligible for grant funding that would otherwise not be available to the community.

The committee, which awards Title II funds provided by the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000, has been very supportive in providing a basic operating grant and has also funded individual projects. The Sacramento Foundation, working with the Bureau of Land Management and the California Division of Forestry, has funded individual projects.

More than 96 percent of the total land area in Alpine County is held in public ownership on three national forests. With less than 26,000 acres of privately assessed property, much of which is zoned for agricultural or timber preserve purposes, the county has little alternative revenue-generating capacity except for recreation on its public lands. The landmark federal legislation in 2000, Public Law 106-393, restored the equivalent of historical payments made to rural counties' schools and roads under the 25 percent Forest Reserve Act of 1908. Projects with this funding included multiple fuel reduction and fire management projects on both the east and west slopes of the county.

"Hopefully, on a federal level, reauthorization will occur of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, and locally, residents will realize that by clearing a defensible space around their homes, they are enabling fire-safe protection," Brees said.

n Gina Gigli is a Markleeville resident. Reach her at


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