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 recent times, however, 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, aggravated by drought and climate change. The Mendocino County Fire Safe Council (MCFSC) does not seek to prevent all fires in wildland areas. Instead,
At stake are the lives of residents and firefighters, plus animals, homes, and natural resources. Through careful preparation, these risks can be prevented or reduced. MCFSC assists this preparation by 1) educating residents about the dangers of wildfire and how they can save their lives and property when one approaches; 2) encouraging mapping, evacuation-route planning, road- and address-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 preparations.
To more effectively accomplish these goals, MCFSC encourages road associations, homeowner groups, subdivisions, and towns to create their own Neighborhood Fire Safe Councils (NFSCs). We assist NFSCs with education, guidance, and sometimes grant funding. Dozens of NFSCs countywide are now organizing neighbors, assessing hazards and needs, and working on projects to improve their preparedness.
Tremendous progress and growth continue to occur in all areas of our work, including for instance the DSAFIE (Defensible Space Assistance For Income Eligible) program, created in 2020, which provides wildfire safety work to low-income senior and disabled residents who cannot accomplish their own defensible-space clearing, by offering free services from a bespoke crew of workers from the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians as an economic-development component of this program.
For these reasons and the timeliness of our focus, the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council was named Nonprofit of the Year 2021 in California State Assembly District 2.
MCFSC has brought millions of dollars of federal, state and other funding into Mendocino County, accomplished countless fuel-reduction and other projects, and continues its ongoing offerings of chipper days, defensible-space clearing, reflective signs, NFSC leadership support, and other services. Our work continues to grow as record-breaking wildfires continue to threaten lives, property and the environment.
Our 2020–21 funders and partners include: the County of Mendocino, the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, CAL FIRE, California Climate Investments, the California Fire Foundation, the California Fire Safe Council, Coalitions & Collaboratives, Inc., the Liberty Foundation, LISTOS California, Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, North Coast Opportunities, Pacific Gas & Electric, the United States Forest Service (USDA) — and of course your membership and donations!