Fire Safety In The First District
County Faces New Wildfire Crisis
The last week has seen the County rocked by a fire of historic proportions. The CZU Lightning Complex Fire is the largest in our county in decades, but it is one of 23 major fires in the state. Over 14,000 firefighters are working across California to put out the blazes sparked by the lightning storm over a week ago. By today, the fire has grown to 78,000 acres but the weather has cooperated to help support the over 1,600 firefighters to achieve 17% containment. The fires continue to actively burn above the marine layer in the heavy timber and thick undergrowth. In our county over 60,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and the County has established a number of new shelters for nearly 2,000 people in need. In the 1st District, shelters have been established at the Simpkins Swim Center, Harbor High School and the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) site. Special thanks to the church and to the Soquel Community Advisory Group for providing useful input to create the second largest shelter in the county at the SDA site. Please consult the County website by clicking here for the most up-to-date information about the shelters and ways that you can contribute either in time, supplies, or money.

Shaded Fuel Break In The Summit Area
I have been working with Summit area residents for years to improve fire safety. Within the last few years, we have added a new fire engine to the Loma Prieta Volunteer Fire Department, installed new cameras to spot fires in the mountains, and funded both the Santa Cruz Fire Safe Council and the South Santa Clara Fire Safe Council. Over the past year we have made some good progress in a number of new areas. With the support of residents, we passed a funding measure in January to add a firefighter to every engine on the County Fire team. Working with the Santa Cruz Mountain Alliance and CalFire/County Fire, we were able to complete a demonstration Shaded Fuel Break project at Loma Prieta School in the spring. This not only made the site safer during a fire, but also provides a visual aid to see what a shaded fuel break would look like along the rest of Summit Road and down Old San Jose Road to help with evacuations if necessary.
The demonstration project is part of a larger effort to create safe evacuation routes in the Summit community. I have convened a group consisting of the Mountain Alliance, the Fire Safe Councils, and CalFire/County Fire to do the work necessary to be competitive for a fire safety grant from the State. The first project would be Summit Road-Highland Way Corridor - FireSafe County Roads Project. This 5.5-mile critical road corridor along the Summit Ridge is Project #1 of the multi-year program. In order to be competitive, we need the support of property owners along the route to grant permission to thin the trees and clean the forest floor of fuel. This is a big issue for shaded fuel break projects. Postcards and emails (where available) have gone to the 137 property owners. The County is providing funding for the grant writer and the Santa Cruz County Fire Safe Council will be assembling the grant. CalFire is helping with the logistics and permitting for the project. We expect to submit the proposal in November and, if funded, hope to start the project next summer. If you would like to help with this project, email the Alliance here
Undergrounding Power Poles
County Public Works and my office have been working over the last six months to make a historic change in resources to help improve safety on the other key evacuation route, Old San Jose Road. The County has allocated resources to underground utilities from PG&E. Historically, these funds have been used to underground utilities near the ocean to improve the scenic views. Through the County’s advocacy, we got PG&E to approve using these funds in our rural areas to underground infrastructure to improve reliability and safety. Last Tuesday, the Board took a vote to create the district to make this change. We have designated the route along Old San Jose Road as the spot to underground utilities to improve safety along a key evacuation route. Details will be worked out over the coming months and we will be working with PG&E to start this project as soon as possible. You can read more by clicking here.
Central Fire Consolidation
One of the long-standing critiques of fire services in our county is the proliferation of fire districts in our small community. This is common in many places and there are usually historical reasons that communities established their own fire service. Central Fire is the product of a merger of several fire districts in Live Oak, Soquel, and Capitola and is the largest fire district in the county. Over the last four years, I have worked with the Central Fire Board, its firefighters, my colleagues, and our Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to move towards consolidation of the Central Fire District and the Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District. A study has been completed on the consolidation that showed that a merged district could improve its services and its financial foundation. You can read the study by clicking here

The first steps are already in place as the two districts share administrative functions and Fire Marshal duties. Assembly member Mark Stone is carrying a bill to address some of the aspects of the pension changes necessary to facilitate this consolidation. The Boards of the two districts are working on the final details and the matter could go before LAFCO for approval in October, with a consolidation possibly occurring sometime before the end of the fiscal year.

Also of note is the Central Fire District’s effort to build a plan for fire safety along the Rodeo Gulch corridor. They have been working to help adjoining property owners create Firewise communities and other plans to ensure the safety of the community along this stretch of wildlands that goes through the urban areas.
Town Hall: CZU Lightning Complex Fire Update 
I will hold an online Town Hall Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. with Ian Larkin, County Fire and CalFire Chief, and Chris Clark, Incident Commander from the Sheriff's Office. They will update the community on the CZU Lightning Complex Fire and answer questions. In addition to Zoom, this meeting can be viewed on my Facebook page. No account is necessary to view on Facebook. Please note the new time to accommodate the schedule of the public safety professionals.

Wednesday, August 26
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.


Or Dial: +1 669 900 9128 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 253 215 8782
Webinar ID: 978 6193 3815


Concerned About Your Fire Insurance Coverage?
At the beginning of the month I held a Town Hall with State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and Assembly member Mark Stone and Supervisor Bruce McPherson to talk about Fire Insurance issues. If you missed this informative session you can check it out here.

Virtual Kickoff Postponed
The Friends of John Leopold had a great lineup set for this Thursday to kick off the fall campaign for Supervisor John Leopold. Guests included Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Mayor Justin Cummings, Live Oak education leader Stacey Kyle, former Assembly Pro Tem Fred Keeley, and special musical guest Melissa Etheridge. Due to the fires, we will be rescheduling the event. Stay tuned for more details. If you would like a sign or want to support the campaign, visit www.friendsofjohnleopold.com. 
Email John and his staff!