Grass Valley Residents Say State Park Needs to Pull Its Own Weight Ahead of Fire Season

GRASS VALLEY -- With fire season just around the corner, Grass Valley residents who live next to the historic Empire Mine are saying the state park needs to do more to remove fire hazards that threaten their homes.

Jeanne Pincha-Tulley’s Grass Valley home borders the 800-acre state park, a popular national historic site that is 100 years old.

While many homeowners have created defensible space to stop fires, park property across the fence is crowded with volatile fuels.

"It doesn’t take much to get it to be a running crown fire in the trees and come up here, and they would have a very hard time holding the fire from this housing area," Pincha-Tulley said.

Pincha-Tulley, a retired U.S. Forest Service fire chief, and her neighbors on Gold Hill Drive were told brush clearing would begin this spring but they're concerned budget priorities have changed.

"We’re not sure where the priority is and we’re not sure when this is going to start and that just concerns us," she told FOX40.

Not far from their neighborhood Thursday, crews were clearing the fuels inside the park.

This kind of work is a priority for state parks. In fact, many employees team up with Cal Fire crews to work on fire safe projects.

The focus for state parks is to protect valuable historic resources, as well as park visitors and features like trails.

"Especially like Empire, where we have a lot significant cultural resources," said acting Sierra District Superintendent Matt Green.

That plan also includes protecting homes bordering state parks. Cal Fire has several projects in a three-county area and they can't all be worked on at once.

"In the neighborhood of 75 different projects we’re working on," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Sean Griffis. "Prioritized as to which ones are going to have the greatest effect to the communities at risk."

Parks officials were responding to neighborhood concerns, although they may not have the answers they want to hear.

All neighbors said they want is for Empire Mine State Park to do the what homeowners are asked to do as far as making their homes fire safe.

"The park needs to do their due diligence, you know, just like we do. It's extremely scary," Pincha-Tulley said.

State parks will meet with residents again next week.

There is some optimism by Cal Fire that clearing operations can move more quickly because Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared his intention to fast-track fire prevention projects, as well as fund them in his budget.

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