“Wildfire in the City of Auburn is inevitable. It is just a matter of when.” That’s the first key assumption in the “2009-2010 Strategic Plan to Aid in the Prevention of Catastrophic Wildfire in the City of Auburn.” In the spring and summer months, dry grass, brush, and oak and pine trees surround homes and businesses in the City of Auburn. We love the sunny weather and the beauty of the Sierra Foothills. But we also know that lightening, human negligence or arson can ignite a wildfire that threatens city residents and business owners.

The 49 Fire, which swept through North Auburn (outside city limits) last summer destroying homes and irreplaceable personal mementos, was an important wake-up call for the City of Auburn and Placer County. It highlighted the fact that even those who live in what fire officials classify as a “Low Fire Hazard Severity Zone,” are still vulnerable to wildfire. Ignoring the problem is not an option. Over 80% of city residents live in the “Very High,” “High” or “Moderate” fire hazard severity zones.

There’s no reason to be fatalistic about this problem. Through cooperation, hard work and concerted action, residents, fire officials and local policymakers can significantly lower the probability that the inevitable wildfire will turn into a catastrophic wildfire. There is a world of difference between a wildfire and a catastrophic wildfire. By acting now, we can save lives, memories, and property during the fire season. Working to create a safer future for residents and business owners is the second, and in many ways more important, operating assumption that guides the Strategic Plan.

On November 23, for the first time in the history of the City of Auburn, the city council approved a Strategic Plan, crafted in collaboration with the citizen-led Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council (GAAFSC) that is designed to prevent a catastrophic wildfire. The Strategic Plan outlines 21 action steps to maximize the attainment of defensible space and fuel reduction on private lands within the city and to maximize fuel reduction in the American River Canyon, which constitutes the eastern and southern borders of the city. It is critical that every resident obtain a free copy of the “Homeowner’s Checklist,” that they can use to ensure that their home has adequate defensible space. The city must aggressively address the situation in which a landowner owns large tracts of land but does nothing to reduce the dangerous fuel loads and endangers his neighbors. And lastly, the city must work collaboratively with the Bureau of Reclamation to find sure-fire ways to reduce the wood fuel build-up in the federally owned American River Canyon.

Protecting the lives of Auburn residents and firefighters must be our number one priority. Residents have invested financially and personally in creating their homes, so we must do everything we can to prevent these investments turn to ash. With the cooperation and collaboration between residents, business owners, Auburn Fire Department, Auburn City Council, CalFire, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the citizen volunteers with GAAFSC, we will fully implement the “2009-2010 Strategic Plan to Aid in the Prevention of Catastrophic Wildfire in the City of Auburn” and create a better and safer future for our community.