A large portion of Sonoma County and its population continue to face risks from wildfire. Factors include:
- Homes built without fire-resistant construction materials and practices.
- Inadequate defensible space management.
- Overgrown and dense vegetation within and near residential areas that are dead or dying.
- Fuels, especially in areas that have burned
- Steep topography, much of the County's fire history is in hilly areas.
- Dry and windy fall weather. Though lightning has not been a significant cause of wildland fires in the past, the 2020 lightning siege may indicate that the risk of lightning-caused fires may be increasing due to changing weather patterns.
It is likely that wildfires will continue to impact our county. As we have seen so often since 2017, firefighting resources are quickly overwhelmed by fire size and spread. Creating defensible space, hardening structures, and emergency preparedness are critical. Each of these elements takes time. The time to start is now! Let’s work together with our neighbors to deepen community bonds and adapt our neighborhoods to be resilient in the face of wildfires in Sonoma County.
The Permit Sonoma Fire Prevention Division provides a free chipper service to county residents who are engaged in making their property more wildfire-safe. The purpose of the program is to create defensible space (specifically around the home), structures, and access routes to the structures for properties located in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. If you are interested in submitting an application for chipping services, find out more about the Curbside Chipper Program guidelines.
Defined by the 2003 United States Congress Healthy Forests Restoration Act, the goal of a CWPP is to enhance efforts to protect communities, watersheds, and other at-risk lands from catastrophic wildfire events. A CWPP is not a regulatory document but provides wildfire hazard and risk assessments, community descriptions, options for addressing issues of structural vulnerability to wildfire (Home Hardening), and a prioritized list of projects that, if implemented, can serve to reduce wildfire hazards.
A CWPP is one of the best tools we have to make progress in adapting our county to a wildfire-prone environment. The CWPP will contain hazard and risk analyses and, using a collaborative model, will suggest projects that can efficiently reduce the risk of loss of life, property loss, and environmental damage.
Fundamentals highlighted in the Sonoma County Homeowners guide include:
- The Three R’s of Defensible Space: Removal, Reduction, and Replacement
- How to determine and create an effective defensible space
- Types of dead vegetation and recommended practice for removal
- Defensible space zones – There are 3 specific defensible space zones:
- Home Ignition Zone
- Defensible Space Zone surrounding your home
- Wildland Reduction Zone
- Fire Safe Landscape Design, including a list of firewise plants, shrubs & trees
- Firewise Construction Checklist:
- What Pre-Fire & Emergency Preparations do you have?
- When a wildfire approaches, what should I have with me?
- What about family members and pets or livestock?
- How should I prepare my car?
- What should I take?
- How should I leave my home?
- What about the outside of my home?
Children are curious about fire but can also be part of the active solutions to help prevent wildfires in Sonoma County.