Groups band together to combat wildfires
Firesafe Council receives $175K grant to construct a centralized database
Organizations across Santa Clara County will be working together to combat wildfires and reduce countywide fire risks with the help of a new grant.
The Santa Clara County Firesafe Council was awarded a $175,000 county coordinator grant to lead a collaborative effort between the county's wildfire mitigation groups, including Santa Clara Firesafe Council, San Jose Water, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and Santa Clara County Parks.
There are a lot of “siloed” wildfire mitigation efforts in the county, which keep projects separate, said Firesafe Council CEO Seth Schalet,
The grant will help create a centralized database to make it easy for organizations to share their projects and information with other agencies, which will help them make cost-effective decisions.
“Wildfires are increasing in frequency and magnitude in Wildland Urban Interface areas,” Schalet said. “Robust engagement of local stakeholders in wildfire risk mitigation planning is an essential component to effective preparedness.”
Schalet said the Firesafe Council will use the money to connect with the various mitigation groups through regular meetings to track and share the information.
The funds will also go toward giving county supervisors a lens into wildfire risks and which projects should be prioritized for county support over others.
“We have now witnessed the devastating impact of wildfires that have occurred across the state over the past several years,” said Santa Clara County Fire Chief Suwanna Kerdkaew. “To mitigate the tragedy other communities have suffered, strategic and coordinated wildfire planning must occur.”
In 2021, the Firesafe Council was awarded $7.5 million in CAL FIRE forest health grant funding to lead a similar collaborative effort to protect the 955 acres of the Los Gatos Creek Watershed.
To reduce that risk, the collaborative is working to manage the vegetation that grows in the watershed — like underbrush, nonnative species and smaller trees — to bring the forest back to a pre-industrialized state when natural wildfires would occur and burn out in a less devastating way.
These efforts come after more than 2 million acres of land in California were scorched by wildfires.
The SCU Lightning Complex fires burned nearly 400,000 acres of land across five Bay Area counties and destroyed more than 100 structures, and the LNU Lightning Complex Fire overtook 375,209 of land in the North Bay.
“Our role leading the current update of the county-wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan will be a project that benefits from this grant, as it enables Santa Clara County Firesafe Council to track and monitor the progress each annex makes towards their goals,” Schalet said.