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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Wildfire Resiliency Paying Dividends New Projects Ongoing

by John Dunbar

Wildfire activity in California has trended down over the past two years due primarily to mitigation actions and weather conditions.

As Napa County enters peak wildfire season, the Napa Communities Firewise Foundation (Napa Firewise) is here to help residents understand and reduce the threat of wildfire. Visit to learn how to help mitigate wildfire risk and impacts countywide. Download free custom parcel and neighborhood maps from the Napa County Wildfire Fuel Mapper ( for information and to see where to manage vegetation to create defensible space around structures.

“We’re about 10% in better condition from a moisture content than this time last year,” according to Napa Firewise Board Chair Christopher Thompson. “That’s good, but it will only take a good wind event to put us on par with fuel moisture levels that are considered ‘critical.’ September and October are the worst months for fire season, and it’s in no way a time to let down our guard.”

During a September 12 presentation to the Napa County Board of Supervisors, Napa County Deputy Fire Chief, Jason Martin, highlighted ongoing efforts throughout Napa County regarding fire preparedness and fire resiliency.

Defensible Space Wildfire Fuel Mapper

The Wildfire Fuel Mapper helps residents and Fire Safe Councils see vegetation within defensible space zones, provides information for vegetation treatment planning, and connect with experts who can customize a vegetation management plan. By removing fuel sources to keep wildfire flames low to the ground, and away from structures, the outcomes are fewer, smaller, and less damaging fires.

Martin explained, “We have a new tool that is available to the public…it allows a homeowner to go in and put in their address and get a report on what type of defensible space is required for their property, and it gives them some guidance on how to achieve such a goal.”

Building Fire Resilient Communities

This year, 83 miles of roadside have been cleared, 197 acres of goat and sheep grazing have reduced fuel loads, and approximately 3,500 piles of debris were removed with funding from Napa County, CAL FIRE, PG&E, Napa Valley Community Foundation, and other donors. Napa Valley Vintners funded the creation of 41 miles of fire breaks to provide strategic perimeters around residential communities throughout Napa County.

Martin highlighted the progress made to protect the community of Circle Oaks. In partnership with Napa Firewise, Circle Oaks Fire Safe Council, Circle Oaks Homeowners Association, and community members, Napa County has provided an initial inspections assessment. Property owners are notified if their property is out of compliance with Napa County’s Defensible Space Ordinance and are informed about what steps need to be taken to mitigate those conditions.

This spring, the 2021 Shaded Fuel Break providing protection around the perimeter of the Circle Oaks Community was maintained with $140,000 in CAL FIRE funding. Napa Firewise crews cut a new fire access road that encompasses the western flank of the sub-division.

Napa Firewise also coordinated with neighboring property owners and the Napa Land Trust to re-establish 13 miles of dozer lines to thin and clean the roads, so firefighters can gain access to the community from Atlas Peak Road. These roads also can be used to hold fire away from affecting the Circle Oaks Community.

Another location that has received fire resiliency treatments is Berryessa Highlands, where 144 acres were cleared with sheep grazing. Crews also implemented five miles of dozer lines around the perimeter of the community, with more lines to be built.

Collaboration Protects Communities

“We can’t do this alone. This takes a lot of organization among partners and other agencies,” Martin emphasized, citing a Fuels Reduction Project being implemented in coordination with the California Veterans Home in Yountville, Napa Firewise, and CAL FIRE’s Hood Mountain firefighter hand crew to provide a Shaded Fuel Break on the west side of the sprawling State-owned facility.

“This provides us protection not only for the Veterans Home and their property and buildings, but also the Town of Yountville itself,” Martin said.



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