January 2021
What's in Store for 2021
Happy New Year! We at Fire Safe Sonoma hope that this message finds you and yours safe and well.

Fire Safe Sonoma is looking forward to continuing our mission of wildfire safety and prevention in Sonoma County in 2021! We are excited about a number of different partnerships and projects in the new year, including:
  • County of Sonoma Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) update public outreach.
  • Assisting and supporting local fire safe councils and other groups.
  • Creating an internal community outreach and operation plan.
  • Pre-approved for two roadside fuels reduction projects in Occidental and Sonoma in partnership with Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB).
  • More home assessments and webinars and presentations! 

Missed our 2020 end-of-year newsletter? Check it out here.
Wintertime Home Hardening Tips
Fire season is officially over in Sonoma County, but winter is actually a great time to make your property as fire resilient as possible! Make fire prevention your goal for 2021 and get a head start this winter. We chatted with Stuart Mitchell, Certified Fire Mitigation Specialist at Wildfire Mitigation Advisors about wintertime home hardening tips for residents. 

Q: Which DIY home hardening activities are the most effective? 

A: I’ll start by saying that a sunny, beautiful winter day is the perfect time to tackle tasks in advance of fire season. While it may be counterintuitive to work on fire prevention activities over the winter, it’s actually a great time to do this work. 
A lot of companies, the kind that do tree work, landscaping, vent retrofitting and painting etc. become really busy in the spring, summer and fall. If you work with companies now during the off season you’re less likely to have to wait your turn and feel frustrated about not getting the work done by your desired timeline. Another reason is that it’s easy to put off this kind of work and life can often get in the way. So it’s best to start thinking of preventative measures now when there’s more time to plan and companies have more availability. 

Q: What advice do you give to residents who are unable to have a professional assess their property right away? 

A: Cleaning out the gutters and roof is the first low-cost task that residents can do by themselves. I constantly speak with homeowners who want to discuss tree removal, and I always tell residents that roofs are #1 priority and are low cost to maintain. However, since it is winter, residents would likely need to go back and clean the roof and gutters again when we re-enter fire season. 

With that said, right now is a great time to research plants to replace existing landscaping that’s undesirable. The winter is also a great time for pruning. There’s an advantage to seeing your landscaping without leaves and other vegetation. Residents should also focus on clearing the 0-5 foot Home Ignition Zone by removing landscaping, bark and any other combustible materials from the 5 foot buffer around the home. 

Another thing people can do right now is look around their house to locate any undesirable fuels such as furniture, bamboo fencing, “stuff”, etc. Residents should ask themselves: should this be here? Do I really need this? Is it adding fuel? Is this creating a spot where embers can infiltrate and ignite something? Embers love those gaps and pockets where they can fester and cause ignition. These observations will inform what sort of work needs to be done to make the residence as fire resilient as possible. 

Q: What other advice do you have?

A: Winter could be a time to kick back and relax now that fire season’s over, or could be a time to refocus our energy and tackle home projects that reduce our fire risk.

I think it’s about changing our mindset around fire prevention from paranoia and anxiety to a place of learning and curiosity. I think the winter is a great time to use the extra time to teach ourselves and learn how we can reduce risk. Look for videos on this subject and share them with friends and neighbors. And start by thinking of these activities as a wintertime priority and to not put them off. It’s ultimately about being a good resident, neighbor and community member. By learning how to reduce risk and taking actionable steps to get there, we can share this knowledge and promote it in our own communities. This includes looking out for the safety of First Responders.
More Home Hardening Resources
Looking for more resources to help you reduce your fire risk this winter? Check out Fire Safe Mendocino’s Home Hardening Video Series. This video series was developed by experts from the UC Cooperative Extension. They guide you through practical actions that will increase your home’s resistance to wildfire and are presented in order of priority. 

Be sure to visit Fire Safe Sonoma’s YouTube channel for recorded videos on this subject and CAL FIRE’s Low Cost Retrofit List. Fire Safe Marin also has a plethora of great information on their YouTube Channel.
News and New Resources
Living with Fire Update
Fire Safe Sonoma is updating our publication “Living with Fire in Sonoma County.” We're working with Fire Safe Marin, Santa Rosa Fire Department and the Sonoma Ecology Center to make significant improvements, including: updated historical fire information, fire-smart landscaping guidance and a lot more! We hope to have the new version available to the public in Spring 2021.
Strengthening Partnerships

We are passionate about wildfire prevention and outreach and know that we are not alone in this mission. Wildfires don’t recognize jurisdictional or geographical boundaries. That’s why this year Fire Safe Sonoma looks forward to strengthening partnerships between other Fire Safe Councils on the local and regional level!

Check out what we’re planning behind the scenes:

  • Local Partnerships - This February will mark our first meeting of local Fire Safe Councils, COPEs and other fire safe communities in Sonoma County to share best practices and discuss important topics in wildfire prevention. We plan to host several co-created meetings per year. Are you part of a Fire Safe Council, COPE, or similar group and would like to learn more? Email Cailin Notch at firesafesonomastaff@gmail.com.

  • Regional Partnerships - In addition to our work coordinating local groups, Fire Safe Sonoma is also strengthening our ties with neighboring countywide Fire Safe Councils such as Fire Safe Marin and Fire Safe Mendocino. Additionally, we have begun monthly meetings with our neighbors at Fire Safe Marin to discuss ways to best support each other and partner. Stay tuned for more information about our regional partnerships!

CCNB Grant Update

We are thrilled to announce that Fire Safe Occidental and Grove Street Fire Safe Council have been pre-approved for vegetation management grants through Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB)! Fire Safe Sonoma played an important role in partnering with CCNB staff and Fire Safe Occidental and Fire Safe Grove Street board members to apply for these grants. These funds will support vegetation management along County roads for roadside fuels reduction and emergency egress in key areas of Occidental and the Sonoma's Grove Street.
Go team!
Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Update
Fire Safe Sonoma is excited to be part of the Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Update core team! FSS will play an integral role in shaping the community outreach portion of the CWPP Update, which will take place over the next year. 

Fire Safe Sonoma joins an excellent team of professionals, including Esther Mandeno of Digital Mapping Solutions, Carol Rice of Wildland Resource Management, Tracy Katelman of ForEverGreen Forestry, Mark Tukman of Tukman Geo-Spatial and Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (Permit Sonoma) staff.

Fire Safe Sonoma was instrumental in the adoption of the first Sonoma County CWPP in 2016. Interested in getting involved in the update? Contact Cailin Notch at firesafesonomastaff@gmail.com.
California Fire Safe Council Staff Spotlight
The California Fire Safe Council (CFSC) has a new Northern California representative! Christopher Baker serves as the Northern Regional Coordinator for the CFSC. Christopher joins a team of three coordinators across the state and serves to support 26 Northern California counties, including Sonoma County.

We chatted with him earlier this month for a brief Q and A. Check out our interview below:

Q: What were you doing before the CA Fire Safe Council?

A: Before coming to the California Fire Safe Council, I worked in the fire service for 14 years working all over California. I started as a volunteer for the City of Patterson and West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District. I loved serving the public and later became a firefighter for CAL FIRE working in the Lassen Modoc Unit and Shasta-Trinity Unit before working in the Bay Area. I am also an educator and taught at three community colleges instructing State Fire Training courses, including Hazardous Materials and Incident Command System (ICS). I have a passion for teaching firefighters and helping them receive career employment.

Q: What are you most excited about in your new role as the Northern California Coordinator?

A: I’m excited to be the point of contact for the 26 Northern California counties in my region and to assist Fire Safe Councils with peer learning, networking and communication. I look forward to connecting people and sharing knowledge and resources across geographical boundaries.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love podcasting. I host a podcast through Fire Engineering called The Future Firefighter Podcast that provides guidance for firefighters on getting hired. I am passionate about community risk reduction and previously served as a Public Information Officer. I am an advocate manager for the Everyone Goes Home Program®, an initiative through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which strives to prevent firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries. I enjoy spending time with my family. My wife and I have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. We enjoy outdoor activities, including hiking and exploring Northern California.

To learn more about Christopher as well as meet the whole CFSC staff, visit the CFSC website here!
Before You Burn: Pile Burning Regulations + Guidance in the Rainy Season
Image Source: Fire Safe Marin
Getting ready to burn your piles over the rainy season? Sonoma Resource Conservation District GrizzlyCorps Fellow Jacob McDaniel breaks down best practices and regulatory guidance for pile burning in Sonoma County.

Read Jacob's article on our website here!

County of Sonoma Updates
County Chipper Program Update
The County of Sonoma Roadside Chipper program was implemented in 2014 and has supported hundreds of county residents in creating defensible space around their homes. Since the program’s inception, there has been an increase in the use of the program by county residents working towards increased fire safety. Last year, the free roadside chipper program started on May 4, 2020 and continues to operate based on available budget, which is driven by community demand for the service. The program operates on a “first come, first served basis”. The budget was initially funded in July 2021 at $170,000 for the Fiscal Year 2020/2021 but during budget deliberations one-time adjustments were made to the budget and the Fiscal Year started with $400,000.
 
In addition, in September 2020 the Sonoma County BOS allocated an additional one-time $150,000 to the annual chipper budget to increase program capacity. To date, 933 jobs have been completed. The program will be in operation until January 15, 2021. At that point equipment maintenance and program review will occur during the month of February. The program will start operating again on March 1, 2021. For further information and to sign up for the program, go to Permit Sonoma's website here.
Make Your Voice Heard!
The County has started the process of updating the Countywide Hazard Mitigation Plan, this time undertaking a Multi-Jurisdictional approach to develop a cohesive plan. As a part of this process, a community survey has been launched to help better understand residents’ knowledge of and preparedness levels for local hazards including floods, fire, and earthquakes.

The survey was published in both English and Spanish and takes 8-10 minutes to complete.

For more information about the Plan update and partner jurisdictions you can visit the project website.
Donor Spotlight
We are so grateful for a generous donation from Julie Solomon Atwood at the HALTER Project for $500!

Julie Solomon Atwood lives in Glen Ellen and has been a disaster safety and preparedness advocate for a long time. In 2014, she founded The HALTER Project, with dual missions of providing Animal Technical Rescue training and equipment to regional agencies, and helping communities prepare for disasters.

The HALTER Project has become a go-to resource for reliable, current information and 
tools to help people keep their animals, and themselves, safer and ready. Julie is a FEMA ICP Award recipient for both Individual and Community Preparedness, and a volunteer with 3 CERT and 4 Community Animal Response Teams. She is a frequent presenter at regional, national and international conferences.
 
With her husband, Tom, they’ve supported their Atwood Ranch team in Good Fire Alliance,TREX, and other local fire safety activities and programs.
Tell the USDA Your Thoughts!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeks public input on Nonindustrial Private Forest Land related to technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Series. Visit their press release to learn more and provide comment by January 19, 2021.
Donate!

If creating a more fire resilient Sonoma County is important to you, please consider donating to Fire Safe Sonoma. Thank you for your support!
Images provided by Cailin Notch, Roberta MacIntyre, Stuart Mitchell, Julie Solomon Atwood, Christopher Baker and Fire Safe Marin.