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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Yolo County Board of Supervisors approves expenditure plan for $1.5 million state grant for fire preparedness and mitiga

Officials are hopeful that the funds will help reduce the impact of California’s catastrophic wildfires

By LEVI GOLDSTEIN city@theaggie.org

 

On Feb. 22, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors approved an expenditure plan for a $1.5 million state grant for fire preparedness and mitigation.

According to Yolo County Office of Emergency Services (OES) Manager Dana Carey, the board set up listening sessions with Yolo County residents following the LNU Lightning Complex fires in 2020 to discuss suggestions for damage mitigation projects and improvements to emergency response efforts. These discussions inspired a partnership between the Board of Supervisors and Senator Bill Dodd to allocate funds from the state budget to Yolo County in order to help reduce the harm of wildfires in the region. 

The OES provides centralized coordination for emergency response teams, such as fire and police departments, during major emergency events and organizes prevention and preparedness efforts. According to Carey, in the event of a wildfire, the OES will monitor fire responders’ radios to gauge whether it will spread into Yolo County and then manage the response. 

“If we think it is going to be something larger than just a day-to-day fire response, then we will start working with the Yolo County Health and Human Services [Department] to stage activation of shelters,” Carey said. “We’ll work with the 911 service agency for what we call mass notification […] for evacuation purposes. We will have to evacuate animals in a lot of cases.”

Carey said that the OES operates the shelters by providing basic needs for evacuees. They also manage the repopulation process and coordinate recovery programs for people heavily impacted by the fire. According to Carey, funding is essential for emergency services operations. 

“It’s a huge job, and without a steady source of funding for emergency management agencies, a lot of them don’t have enough staff to do the work,” Carey said. 

Most of the funding for the OES comes from grants. At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 22, Carey presented a list of suggestions for mitigation and preparedness projects that could receive grant funds. The list was compiled in cooperation with the Yolo County Resource Conservation District (RCD) Fire Safe Council, according to RCD Project Manager Tanya Meyer. 

According to Meyer, community-organized fire safe councils are more grassroots efforts for fire response and prevention, such as local outreach and education. However, the Yolo County Fire Safe Council (YCFSC) was founded in 2021 as part of the Yolo County RCD. Being an official organization has advantages. 

“Many fire safe councils become nonprofits, 501(c)(3)’s, and they can apply for grant funding, but that takes a ton of work,” Meyer said. “So the Conservation District, we apply for grant funding all the time. We’re really good at getting grants and managing grants. We have offered to these local fire safe councils to be their fiscal agent for projects.”

The expenditure plan ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors was informed by the LNU fire listening sessions and the advice from the YCFSC. According to Carey, the plan includes improvements to emergency alert systems where technology does not reach, fuel reduction efforts such as removing invasive eucalyptus trees and clearing dry brush and installing better address signs that are easier for responders to see from the road. 

The projects funded by the state grant, as well as community grassroots efforts, can reduce the risk of a wildfire spreading or creating excessive damages.
“They’re always going to happen, so the faster we can put them out and the more defensible space we have around the areas where they frequently happen, it just has a better chance of not turning into a larger fire,” Carey said. 

Written by: Levi Goldstein — city@theaggie.org

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