Mendocino Fire Safe Council receives funding for safety work

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Roadside clearing makes high-risk rural roads safer in the event of a wildfire for responding firefighters and evacuating residents, as seen in these before and after photos.

The Mendocino County Fire Safe Council (MCFSC) has received three new CAL FIRE grants totaling more than $3.5 million over the next three years, for several projects enhancing wildfire safety in key locations across the county. MCFSC and CAL FIRE worked together to identify the highest priorities for safety treatments.

Nearly 90% of Mendocino County is in a high or very high fire danger zone, and MCFSC’s mission is to help county residents survive and thrive in our wildfire-prone environment. These grant projects respond to this mission through several strategies.

Largest of the CAL FIRE grants, awarded through a competitive application process, provides $2.5 million for safer evacuation and firefighter access in select areas near Yorkville (Elkhorn Road), Laytonville (Cherry Creek), Lake Mendocino (Vista Del Lago), and Willits (Ridgewood). Roadside clearing will remove branches and brush that encroach on major access roads, making these roads safer in an emergency for residents and responders, and also creating a fuel cut to halt progress fires.

Nearly two thousand residents and day workers will benefit from increased protection thanks to this particular fuel reduction project. Planning will be done in coordination with residents, neighborhood fire safety councils and local fire departments in each area, to ensure that local risks and needs are properly considered. Environmental clearance from the State of California will also be obtained before work begins.

This grant also includes an educational outreach component in which interested community members will be invited to attend 300 home inspections (with landowner permission) for real life demonstrations of the most dangerous living conditions and what can be done to make them safer. Participants in these “field trips” will learn the basics of protecting a home from wildfires and creating defensible spaces around their own residences. A recent study showed that a house is up to 75% more likely to survive a wildfire if it has been properly prepared in advance.

The other two CAL FIRE grants were direct, non-competitive awards, reflecting the confidence that CAL FIRE places in MCFSC’s ability to help them achieve their mutual goals in very high-risk areas. One of these grants provides $600,000 primarily for scientific studies to obtain environmental clearance for future prescribed burning and road clearing projects that CAL FIRE plans to implement on more than 10,000 acres in the county.

The third prize, in the amount of $435,000, will focus on the Ukiah Valley and Orr Springs Road east of Comptche. Environmental clearance and fuel cuts, as well as environmental studies to prepare for prescribed burns, will be carried out in the very high risk areas of the eastern and western hills of the Ukiah Valley. These will help protect the entire population of the valley, which has a population of 13,000, as well as critical infrastructure and essential services, by slowing or preventing wildfires that could otherwise reach the city itself. .

This third project also includes roadside clearing along part of Orr Springs Road, a primary access route serving several population centers. Orr Springs Road is one of the few options available for a significant east-west firebreak in Mendocino County without creating a much more costly and environmentally disruptive off-road firebreak.

This multi-faceted cooperative support from CAL FIRE will help make thousands of residents in many places in Mendocino County safer from potential future wildfires. For more information about the work and services of the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council, visit firesafemendocino.org or contact MCFSC at 707-462-3662 or [email protected]

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