New agreement brings hope for fire reduction in scars of Creek Fire

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A first-of-its-kind agreement is reason for hope for people in Madera County who have been plagued by wildfire damage.

A government signing ceremony Tuesday carried more meaning than most, at least to a Sierra National Forest supervisor watching it happen near the scars of the 2020 Creek Fire.

"Really really excited about today," said U.S. Forest Service supervisor Dean Gould. "This is a big deal."

Gould didn't even sign the memorandum of understanding.

Madera County and the non-profit Yosemite Sequoia Research Conservation and Development Council did.

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But Gould's U.S. Forest Service team is part of and will benefit from a bigger arrangement that he says couldn't come at a better time.

"Timing is everything because at least in our recorded history, never before has a forest faced the types of conditions and situations we're facing right now," he said.

Wildfires have burned more than two million acres already this year, setting the same pace as last year's record season.

The Creek Fire burned nearly 380,000 acres in 2020, mostly in the Sierra National Forest and helped motivate Tuesday's agreement.

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"We're at the nexus of a climate-driven drought catastrophe coupled with fuel-laden landscapes that are driving the catastrophic wildfires," said Rubie Teffeteller, program manager for Yosemite Sequoia RC & DC.

Teffeteller says her organization will be the center hub, coordinating projects and funding from the federal, state, and county governments plus tribal and private interests.

"It's removing hazardous fuel conditions out there from the tree mortality bark beetle event, from overgrowth, years of not being touched," she said.

Madera County is the first in the Valley to enter into this kind of agreement.

County supervisor Tom Wheeler is also president of the non-profit. He says will boost the county's ability to reduce fire dangers, along with his "fuel reduction district" plans.

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"If we can get this going, we will have a continually funded mechanism to maintain these fuel breaks and fuel reduction areas," he said.

One more benefit of clearing out the fire danger in Madera County could be helping homeowners with their insurance, which has become quite an issue for a lot of them as wildfire dangers have gotten worse and worse.

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