Fuel Reduction Efforts

Responding to the devastating wildfires of 2017-18, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-05-19 on Jan. 9, 2019. The executive order directed the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), in consultation with other state agencies and departments, to recommend immediate, medium and long-term actions to help prevent destructive wildfires. In total, CAL FIRE identified 35 priority projects that could be implemented immediately to help reduce public safety risk for over 200 communities. Among them was the North Fork American River Shaded Fuel Break Project in Placer County. 

What is a shaded fuel break?

A shaded fuel break slows the spread of wildfire through the reduction of vegetation and fuel in the forest. Larger canopy trees are left in place but smaller trees and underbrush are cleared, leaving a park-like, forested landscape that, by slowing a wildfire’s progress and keeping it out of the forest canopy, helps firefighters fight it more safely and effectively.  

North Fork American River Shaded Fuel Break Project

The North Fork American River Shaded Fuel Break is a large fuel break system that extends 17 miles parallel to Interstate 80 from the City of Auburn to the City of Colfax northeast along the ridges that border the North Fork of the American River. 

The first phase of the project is a $1.3 million fuels reduction project around the City of Colfax that is critical to protecting Colfax and its municipal domestic water and wastewater treatment facilities. The fuel break also protects critical infrastructure for commerce such as the Union Pacific Rail Line, Interstate 80, the Kinder Morgan petroleum pipeline, and Pacific Gas and Electric power and water infrastructure for approximately 500,000 customers.

This project is designed to treat approximately 850 acres through a combination of hand crews, pile burning, mastication (heavy equipment), chipping and biomass.

Phase 1 of the project was completed in the end of 2021. Completion of the full 17-mile fuel break is expected to take up to a decade, depending on the availability of funding.

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