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Fire main topic at Town Hall

At last week’s town hall meeting in North Fork, held by Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, fire was foremost on the minds of those who attended, given that the Sky Fire had started earlier that afternoon.

Roger Maybee, retired CDF, with Firewise reminded that embers can fly and start spot fires, and that 90% of homes lost in wildfires is due to flying embers. He showed a graphic with homes burned to the ground, while next door, a home stood untouched.

Maybee said the difference is that embers were unable to get inside the home still standing, or on top of the home because there were no flammable debris. He also reinforced that three-to-five feet around your home’s perimeter should be bare minimum soil, or non-combustibles.

“I’m trying to educate residents,” Maybee said. “Trees will grow back ... worse than losing trees is the loss of life and property.”

A woman in the audience asked what she could do about neighbors who hadn’t made their property fire safe. She said she had called Cal Fire to report it, but was told, “We can’t make people clear around their home.”

A second woman said she was met with the same kind of response when contacting an area fire station. Both Maybee and Wheeler advised the women to report the incident to the battalion chief.

Related to wildfires, Wheeler discussed ISO rating on homes, saying most of Eastern Madera County is ranked 10, the highest number possible. The higher the ranking, the higher home insurance premiums.

“We don’t have the fire staffing we should have to drop this rating - three fire personnel 24/7 at every fire station,” Wheeler said. “We just don’t have the money for that.”

Adding 1/2 cent sales tax countywide could be the solution. Voters will decide on this sales tax increase on the 2016 ballot. Wheeler said this increase could fully fund every fire station in Madera County, and finally fill all the openings at the sheriff's department.

Bill Ritchey, a 56-year Mountain Area resident from Raymond, has 35 years experience working emergencies.

“We have the same county model that we did in the 1950s and 60s,” Ritchey said. “It’s 50 years of neglect that has put us in this situation. Some of the fire trucks are 35 years old. Let’s work together to solve this problem, once and for all ... because it will not get any better otherwise.”

To make your home fire wise and fire safe: firewisemaderacounty.org.

Other town hall topics:

* Recycling will begin July 1 in Bass Lake. Recycling manager, Ashley Smith with EMADCO said this free service will help keep trash out of the landfill, which is crucial given that plastic items discarded in landfills remain in the same condition forever. He also said that True Value in Oakhurst is a drop-off place for paint, at no charge. During the coming year, EMADCO will support all community events by providing recycling containers. To see what is and what isn’t recyclable, see emadcodisposal.com.

* Bidding will begin in early July for a project to widen Highway 41 between Road 208 and Rocky Cut, with a passing lane in each direction. The target date for beginning the project is late summer.

* A hazardous waste event will take place, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., July 25, at Yosemite High School.

The next Town Hall meeting will be held 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Pines Resort.

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