Simitian Pushes Wildfire Prevention in the West Valley
SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to direct the County’s Central Fire Protection District to expand its Pre-Fire Management and Wildfire Resilience program, including the addition of a dedicated crew, called a Fuels Crew, to clear brush and vegetation along evacuation routes and roads. The Board also asked for a plan to expand the District’s “community chipping” program.
The addition of a Fuels Crew would allow the District to start reducing hazardous wildland fuels, which increases public safety by reducing wildfire ignitions and spread. A more robust chipping program would further reduce hazardous fuels in the wildland urban interface areas, which would further increase public safety. The District’s boundaries include the West Valley cities of Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and a portion of Saratoga, and unincorporated lands in western Santa Clara County.
“There’s an obvious need for urgency as we continue to experience larger and more damaging wildfires each year. Unfortunately, fire season is no longer a season. It seems almost constant,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who proposed the program upgrades. “We have to keep looking for opportunities to improve fire prevention year-round, and to give local communities the help they need to keep their homes, businesses and families safe,” said Simitian.
In addition to fuel reduction along evacuation routes, County staff were also directed to expand the current Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) community chipping program. This free community chipping program, offered in partnership with the Santa Clara County Fire Safe Council, currently assists individual residents and communities in their efforts to create and maintain defensible space by processing and disposing of brush and tree branches once a year at a central location. Simitian said, “Simply put, it’s a great effort and I’m hoping we can do more of it.”
WUI is best described as an area that transitions from a natural condition (wildland) to a developed area (urban). For instance, the Town of Los Gatos’ WUI planning area includes Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone on the southern side of the Town. Residents of the District bordering WUI’s understand all too well the potential of damaging wildfires, as experienced in 2020 with the CZU Lightening Complex Fire.
Assistant Fire Chief, Brian Glass, states “The Fire District’s Pre-fire Management and Wildfire Resilience Program was created in response to the ever-changing wildfire environment. The region continues to experience increased risk due to an accumulation of drought stressed fuels and overgrowth. Wildland megafires are becoming more frequent and deadly and this is why it is so important that we take action, now. The District is excited to begin this meaningful and challenging work and appreciates the support of the board of directors as we explore additional ways to keep the communities we serve safe.”
“The Fire District’s efforts to date to focus on prevention and wildfire mitigation are to be commended,” said Simitian. “It’s time for us to step up and take these efforts to the next level. We can do more. Frankly put, we have to.”
As a dependent fire district, the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District is governed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, acting as the Board of Directors for the District.
Read the April 19 referral.