Wildfire is a natural part of our county’s history. In centuries past, fires ignited by lightning, Native Americans, and ranchers periodically burned lightly and quickly through our wildlands, clearing out dense brush and reducing the overall vegetation. Such fires rarely devastated the landscape, because they burned frequently and with much less intensity than we see today.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, thousands of people have moved into areas where these fires once burned, and homes now dot fire-prone landscapes. Because of these homes, wildland fires have been fought aggressively and natural fires are rarely allowed. As a result, vegetation continues to become older and denser, and the danger of large, destructive fires continues to increase.
The Fire Safe Council does not seek to prevent all fires in wildland areas. Instead, it seeks to help persons in wildland areas to prepare for wildfires that are inevitable.
The values at stake are the lives of residents and firefighters, plus animals, homes, and natural resources. Through careful preparation, these losses can be prevented or reduced.
The Mendocino County Fire Safe Council assists this preparation primarily by (1) educating residents about the dangers of wildfire and how they can save their lives and property when one occurs; (2) encouraging mapping, evacuation route planning, road sign installation, water supply development, and other projects in rural areas to prepare for wildfire situations; and (3) obtaining grant funding to help residents make the necessary changes.
To more effectively accomplish these goals, the Council encourages road associations, homeowner groups, subdivisions, and towns to create their own Fire Safe Councils. The county Council assists local Councils with education, guidance, and possible grant funding. Local Fire Safe Councils in the following areas are now assessing their needs and working on projects to improve their areas’ preparedness: the Caspar Community and Island Cove Estates (south of Point Arena) on the coast; Pine Mountain, Ridgewood Park, and Willowbrook/Sherwood Forest Hills (past Brooktrails) in the Willits area; and Deerwood, Oak Knoll Road, Upper Parducci Road, Black Bart Trail and Robinson Creek Road in the Ukiah area.
Since its founding in 2004, the Council has brought $700,000 of federal funding into Mendocino County from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. It has also been granted $114,000 by the local Allen-Heath Memorial Foundation for outreach and wildfire planning efforts, including the creation in 2005 of the Mendocino County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which was revised and updated in 2016.
The Mendocino County Fire Safe Council encourages all interested persons to become involved and to participate in its work! Volunteer here.