4-mile fire break installed near Murphys to protect against future wildfires

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MURPHYS, Calif. (KTXL) – Just north of the town of Murphys, a 500-foot-wide fire break now stands between a populated community and any future wildfire encroaching from the north.

“This project bolstered some of the contingency fuel breaks that were done during the 2015 Butte Fire where we lost over 500 structures in Calaveras County,” said Bill Fullerton, Murphys Fire Chief and project coordinator for the nonprofit Calaveras Foothills Fire Safe Council.

The council requested and received a $215,000 grant to make the area more fire safe.

The money came from California Climate Investments.

“Which is managed by Cal Fire for fuels reduction activities statewide,” Fullerton explained.

The funding paid for the fire break that covers about 165 acres and runs about four miles long.

“Funding for a long time was very scarce for fuel break projects like this, but with some of the major conflagration fires we’ve had over the last five years, it’s become right front and center in politics to make sure that we create these fuel breaks, to make sure that we actually are doing something positive,” Fullerton told FOX40. “We’re trying to create some kind of offensive measure to stop some of these large-scale fires.”

Some of the trees within the fire break were left standing a safe distance apart. The rest of the vegetation within the break was chopped by hand and heavy machinery.

“We do an initial cut that basically cuts the brush down to the ground level, and then a second pass that basically rototills it into the ground,” Fullerton said.

Fullerton says similar projects in Calaveras County are in the planning stages.

When asked what’s at stake here, he not only points to the safety of thousands who live in and around Murphys, but also the tourists who flock to the region.

“In any good weekend, we may have upwards of 110,000 people up here recreating in our areas,” he explained.

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