In September 2018, the Board adopted Urgency Ordinance 2454 adding Article 6 of Chapter XVI to the Nevada County Land Use and Development Code prohibiting outdoor burning on private property in the South Yuba River Wild and Scenic corridor. The South Yuba River Public Safety Cohort proposed and recommended the ordinance and, over the past few years, the Board has extended it twice. On April 12 of this year, the Board voted to extend it again, this time removing the sunset clause, allowing it to exist in perpetuity (or until the Board amends or repeals it).
The ordinance bans open flame on private property, with some exceptions, within a quarter mile from the ordinary high-water mark on each side of the river (1,320 feet) in Nevada County from Lang Crossing down to the confluence of the South Yuba River with Kentucky Creek below Bridgeport. The ban is in effect each year for the duration of CAL FIRE’s declared fire season.
Fire in the river canyon is a very real and serious threat, due to constant presence of people in the canyon, the remote nature of the area, and the fast rate of growth of fire in canyons. (Fire travels uphill quickly.) While not human-caused, the August 2020 Jones Fire is a recent example of the destructive nature of a fire in the South Yuba River Canyon. Ignited by a dry lightning strike, the fire burned 705 acres, destroyed 21 structures, as well as the historic wooden flumes of the wheelchair-accessible Independence Trail, and threatened the cities of Nevada City and Grass Valley.
The volunteers and state and federal rangers who spend time in the river canyon report finding abandoned fire rings down there, so it’s clear that not everyone visiting the river understands or respects the fire danger. This ban, which can be read in full at this link (http://qcode.us/codes/nevadacounty/view.php?topic=3-xvi-6-l__1&frames=off) is one tool we have to help address that.