RCD of Greater San Diego County leads collaborative approach to battling wildfire

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The Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Greater San Diego County will use funds from the California Department of Conservation (DOC) and the California Natural Resources Agency to further regional work on reducing local wildfire threats and impacts.

The RCD was awarded $1.425 million from the California DOC this year as part of a block grant that will be directed toward the RCD/Fire Safe Council of San Diego County through the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program. The funds will be used in part to develop a regional fire priority plan, project demonstration and regional outreach and education.

“What this grant is designed to do is work collaboratively with our fire agency partners to support each other’s projects and to work more on a regional scale,” RCD Executive Director Sheryl Landrum said. “We’re trying to make California more fire resilient.”

“Fire is a real threat in San Diego County, and now the rest of the state as well. We have climate change, we’ve been in drought for many years, and people are building homes and communities within the wildland-urban interface (WUI),” she said. “Fire is not a matter of ‘if it happens’ anymore, it’s now when it happens; we need to learn to live with wildfire in California. Our regional fire priority plan is not just a strategic plan from one agency, but a strategic plan with all our land managers’ fire priority plans, so it’s cohesive and collaborative, and it will strengthen San Diego’s ability to become more fire resilient.”

The Fire Safe Council is made up of the RCD, federal, tribal, state and local fire agency partners, as well as other stakeholders, and includes the Cleveland National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, CAL FIRE, state parks and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agencies have been working with each other since the council formed in 1996. Through this grant, they will be able to combine efforts between all organizations to better identify high-level at-risk areas and work on the ground together more efficiently and effectively for the largest scale and most cost-effective projects on the basis of priority.

“Everybody has large areas of lands they’re managing which have been designated fire priority areas. This grant is allowing us to bring all of these lands and fire priorities to the table so we can document everyone’s area, list the fire priorities, and then, as a group, prioritize which of these fire projects to tackle first as a collaboration,” Landrum said. “We are working together, not in isolation.”

For example, if CAL FIRE has a fire break it is working on, and the RCD can target a community for defensible space, then the two agencies are working together to get the projects combined for a larger impact.

“If you have a clear fire fuel break, but you don’t have defensive space around the community it abuts, the fire break may become ineffective,” she said.

Landrum said the group will meet frequently to identify projects, prioritize fire issues and develop the demonstration project, which could be a project an agency already has an eye on or one that the group comes up with jointly.

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Tags: Forestry, wildfire

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