All of us in California are coming to grips with the reality of fire risk.
Ag Innovations started working on fire resiliency early in 2017, when our partners at the Sonoma County Water Agency told us about their concerns about fire in the area of Lake Sonoma, the primary water supply for more than 600,000 people and businesses in the region. We wrote a grant, and hoped that we could begin the task of community mobilization. Six months later, the Tubbs fire of 2017 happened, and the urgency of the issue became clear and present, as our community members lost their homes, and some lost their lives.
Our Firesmart Lake Sonoma project gathered neighborhoods of residents, firefighters, regulatory officials, and technical support specialists to learn from each other through both discussions and hands-on site visits. Together we explored actions large and small that neighbors can take together to achieve the scope of impact that is needed to strengthen fire resiliency at the watershed-scale. This culminated in a set of suggested next steps for fire resiliency in the Lake Sonoma watershed.
We synthesized this process into a how-to kit to increase capacity for fire resiliency in other communities. We have launched these discussions in three additional areas (Napa County, Hopland and Dry Creek Valley), and look forward to continuing to support communities in California to increase their capacity for fire resiliency and collaboration.
A generous PG&E Better Together Resilient Communities grant supported this project.
Lake Sonoma Watershed
GREAT RESOURCES FROM THE FIRESMART LAKE SONOMA WORKSHOPS
- Ben Nichols, from CALFIRE, discusses how CalFire approaches defending homes and buildings in event of a wildfire – and how residents can be more prepared.
- Video on Home Design and Retrofitting Techniques for Wildfire Defense
- CalFire Prepare for Wildfire Website
- Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group – Resource for landowner workshops on managing forests and reducing woodland fire risk
- Creating Wildfire Adapted Homes and Landscapes – Detailed informational guide from FireSAFE Sonoma
- FireSmart Community Workshop Resource Handout – Terminology and Resources for Creating Fire Adapted Communities from Sonoma Water and Ag Innovations
MEETING RESULTS FROM FIRESMART LAKE SONOMA WORKSHOPS
Jumpstart workshops: Spring 2019
Firesmart Lake Sonoma Watershed: Fall 2018
Biochar Pile Burn Demonstration, 2019
Geyserville Firesmart Community Workshop, 2018
Hopland Jumpstart Workshop, 2019
This project is a Resilient Community Pilot Project funded by PG&E Resilient Communities Better Together 2017 grant and the Sonoma County Water Agency
Prior to the Sonoma Complex Fires of October 2017, Ag Innovations and the Sonoma County Water Agency came together to address fire and forestry management in the Lake Sonoma watershed. The steep, heavily forested hills surrounding the lake have experienced more than 10 fires since 1940, and remain vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire. A major fire within the 83,000-acre watershed could result in catastrophic effects on homes, businesses, roads, water quality, and critical down-stream fisheries habitat. Since Lake Sonoma is the primary water supply for more than 600,000 people and businesses in the region, reducing fire risk in the watershed is critical to the public safety of our region.
Landowners in the watershed include a mix of vineyards, ranches, private homes, and public lands. Each group holds unique knowledge about adapting to fire and managing lands for fire preparedness. Each group likely experiences different barriers to implementing fire-smart strategies. The FireSmart initiative will bring together the people who live and work in the Lake Sonoma watershed to share insight and develop collaborative solutions for a fire-resilient watershed. In 2018, we conducted four workshops in the Lake Sonoma Watershed, and now in 2019 are ‘jumpstarting’ other fire resiliency efforts in the critical watershed of Hopland in Mendocino County, and in Napa County.
We are now in Phase 2 of the grant, which is replicating this effort in Napa and Mendocino. In Napa, we are working with community advocates, firesafe councils and RCDs in Mendocino and Napa to help bolster their efforts around planning and coordination. In Hopland, (Mendocino County) a critical watershed of the Russian River (which again provides source drinking water) they do not currently have a Firesafe council. On June 2, we will bring together the community for information, understanding, and collective awareness. In Napa, where they have a range of Firesafe councils, the goal will be to connect agencies around a community wildfire protection plan and other collective actions on May 4. Finally, in May or June we will be hosting a final climate-friendly pile burn workshop to reinforce learning, relationships and action in the Lake Sonoma Watershed. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining any of these workshops!