By Ron Ringen

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the people found out how low they were on the FEMA recovery food chain. I’m not trying to be flip or smart here but we, Tuolumne County, are just one dry lightning strike/wildfire away from the same rude awakening.

The South Fork of the Stanislaus River has not burned in more than 100 years and that’s where many of our homes are located as well as the flume that brings water to most of the residents in Tuolumne County.

A fire in that canyon would be disastrous.

This is a fact: fire, like other disasters, becomes political. No millionaires or movie stars live here like in Hollywood. We are a rural community and in the case of the Donnell Fire, we lost tracts of irreplaceable cabins and history that we love.

When CalFire is the only game in town, how do you think we will fare as a priority when the whole state is on fire?

Our economy depends on leaders who get this. I am not talking about better forestry management here, even though we need that also. I am talking about our neighborhoods within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

This is finally hitting the political radar screen elsewhere. Look what is happening in Paradise in northern California and what is occurring in southern California near L.A. right now.

We must invest in our local militia of awesome volunteer fire departments and develop our own water resources including stock ponds. We must establish fire-water drafting points along our ditch system, which is a raw-water, gravity-fed system serving many areas in high fire danger with no hydrants.

We must have as much local control and self-reliance as possible.

Neighborhood fire-water drafting points along our ditch system and our local firefighters can make the difference between life and death. The response time, deployment of pumps, the use of raw water etc. is far faster and cheaper than locating and using a fire hydrant (with costly treated water) perhaps miles away.

We live in a high fire danger area. Many cannot get fire insurance. We have inadequate hydrant coverage. Fire takes no prisoners.

Let’s think outside the box. Let’s utilize, strengthen and dedicate resources for self-sufficiency. Now that the election is over, let’s put some real pressure on our county leaders, who up until now have ignored this issue even though I’ve been beating this drum for about six years.

With new members on the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, it is the perfect time to get all of the members of both the Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors and the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors together for a walk/tour of the ditch system to formulate a plan to immediately get the fire water draft points identified and installed as well as other water containment locations.

I’m challenging my fellow Tuolumne County neighbors to join me letting our county leaders know that we are dead serious about the two boards meeting and walking the ditch system and putting together a fire water draft point program as soon as possible.

Let’s all get it done before it’s too late.

Ron W. Ringen is a member of the board of the Tuolumne Utilities District.