As the state and region see the start of this year’s fire season while facing a severe drought, The County of Santa Clara and its Fire District have begun to ramp up wildfire prevention measures.
On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve plans presented to them by Fire officials. These plans come on the heels of 2020’s Santa Clara (SCU) and Santa Cruz (CZU) lightning complex fires, unforgettable megafires that caused widespread damage while keeping people indoors for weeks.
As the County’s Battalion Chief of Pre-Fire Management and Wildfire Resilience Mike Mathiesen explained, “We are lucky to live in a natural landscape surrounded by scenic mountains, but that also means we must contend with an ever-changing wildfire environment…”
Among the new initiatives to be pursued (as listed in a County press release):
- A pilot Community Wildfire Program with the addition of a specialist who will conduct inspections for residents living in high fire hazard areas and provide guidance on creating defensible spaces around properties;
- A new fuels reduction crew to support existing (or establish new) community programs to bolster evacuation routes, create defensible space around critical infrastructure, and create fuel breaks around communities;
- Community education webinars for wildfire preparedness; and
- The use of an online data tool to run training simulations and to alert the public of evacuations with real-time information.
Said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, “There’s an obvious need for urgency as we continue to experience larger and more damaging wildfires each year. Unfortunately, fire season is no longer a season. It seems almost constant.”
Santa Clara County’s Fire District will be working with $2 million from the $7 million in State grant money awarded to Los Gatos for the West Valley Cities after the events of 2020. The District is also pursuing other forms of grant funding in the meantime.