Auburn Lake Trails Fire Safe Council
Auburn Lake Trails is a 3,600 acre gated subdivision containing 1,104 buildable lots ranging in size from .33 acre to 14 acres and established in 1976 in the small foothill community of Cool. Currently there are over 1,000 completed homes in Auburn Lake Trails (ALT) with a population of approximately 2,800 residents.
ALT is located at the 1500 to 2000 foot elevation in the foothills of northern California about 36 miles northeast of Sacramento. It is situated on the rim of the American River Canyon which holds the Lower Fork of the American River and is immediately adjacent to the El Dorado National Forest, an area managed by the California State Parks as the Auburn Recreation Area. ALT is a community of residents with a wide range of interests from horseback riding to golfing, to tennis, to hiking, and to swimming all of which is demonstrated by its numerous committees, clubs, and organizations. Within ALT are 32 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails which connect to hundreds of miles of trails on the adjacent El Dorado Forest.
The vegetation (fuels) within and adjacent ALT is a mosaic of fuel types and was rated by the Calif. Department of Forestry as a Very High Severity Hazard. The community of Cool is listed in the Federal Register as a Community At-Risk. The steep terrain, composition, density, structure and heavy fuel loading of the vegetation adjacent to ALT in the federal land include all of the elements for a catastrophic wildfire which would engulf ALT. Portions of the subdivision are fractured by drainages, saddles, ridges and steep side slopes. This combination of existing fuels and topography can cause erratic and catastrophic fire behavior.
We are a “World Class WUI” trying our best to mitigate our internal fuelload condition and help the adjacent national forest become a Healthy Neighbor.
Thus, it was clear that Auburn Lake Trails needed to take action to prevent a disastrous fire from destroying the homes and lifestyles that its residents enjoy.
A Plan (“Auburn Lake Trails Fuel Safe and Fire Reduction Plan”) was developed by two Registered Professional Foresters. This Plan prioritized the actions that needed to be undertaken in order to make ALT safe from a catastrophic Wildfire. This Plan was endorsed by fire agencies at all levels and was signed as agreement by the ALT Board of directors.
- The Auburn Lake Trails Fire Safe Council was formed by the ALT residents.
- A Perimeter Shaded Fuel Break (150 to 300 feet wide) was initiated by a Grant through the Calif. Dept. of Forestry and the El Dorado County Fire Safe Council. This Shaded Fuel Break is located on the Canyon edge of the subdivision and was begun in 2002, Work continued in 2003, 2004, and 2005 and is scheduled to continue until completed, all subject to funds and workcrews being available.
- Fuel reduction was completed in the ALT campground area and numerous lots, comprising a total of 172.5 acres owned in common by the ALT Property Owners’ Association members for their enjoyment. These holdings are used for recreational purposes and will remain as fuel-treated Greenbelts.
- ALT’s Recycling Area, which was located in an extremely dense fuel area, was closed due to fire danger and is now a fire break area.
- The subdivision’s Right-of-Ways along the 26 miles of ALT’s roadways are continuously cleared of brush and trees to enable residents to evacuate safely, if necessary.
- Common areas with heavy grasses are mowed repeatedly during fire season.
- Centralized Chipping Days are held to enable residents to bring slash to be chipped. The El Dorado County Fire Safe Council also provides Free Roadside Chipping to residents. A limited number of Free Green Waste vouchers are also made available to residents for disposing of leaves, needles, and other small clippings.
- A subdivision requirement was passed in 2004 which required all property owners to create 100′ of Defensible Space around all structures.
- ALT resident-volunteers (“Volunteers in Prevention”) inspect every ALT property to insure compliance of the 100′ requirement.
- A Fire Compliance Officer was hired to follow up on all non-compliant properties. Deadlines for compliance were established and if properties are still not cleared, Contractors are hired to clear the non-complying properties, and a Lien placed on the property for the cost of the clearing.
- Numerous community meetings are held to provide residents with important information about creating their Defensible Space, FireWise Landscaping techniques, and other fuel reduction efforts.
- A “Fire Safety” column has been instituted in the monthly residents’ newsletter, “Trailviews” featuring fuel reduction information, FireWise Landscaping ideas, fire danger cautions, and other relevant fire safety information.
- Brochures on numerous Fire-Safe practices are made available to residents through FireWise programs.
- Collaboration has been established, and continues, with local, regional, and state fire agencies to maximize fire safety efforts and to maximize fire safety education.
- Representative ALT residents are actively involved in the County and State level Fire Safe Councils.
- Auburn Lake Trails was awarded the “FireWise Communities” designation, the second community in California to receive this award as a recognition of many collaborative efforts this community has undertaken.
Auburn Lake Trails is now a community that is
Fire Alert, and, hopefully,
—Saved from Wildfire