Community fire safe councils forming in rural Yolo and Solano

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Last May, the Yolo County Fire Safe Council and the Solano Resources Conservation Districts hosted a virtual meeting for the greater Winters area to organize community-based fire safe councils. A fire safe council (FSC) is a volunteer effort that receives support from local, state and federal agencies to help residents to collectively protect homes and their community against wildfires.

According to the California Fire Safe Council, localized FSC efforts help reduce risks to life, homes, structures and natural and man-made resources by coordinating efforts with county fire councils, Cal Fire, law enforcement and local fire districts.

Winters Fire Chief, Brad L. Lopez, serves as vice president to the Yolo County Fire Safe Council (YFSC).

“The goal of the Yolo County Fire Safe Council is to help align and secure funding for projects in local community fire safe councils,” Lopez said.

Lopez said community FSCs have formed in Golden Bear Estates and in the Positas Road area.

Members meet regularly to conduct risk assessments, educate neighbors, collect and share contact and emergency information and identify potential fire dangers. Although Winters proper has escaped wildfire damage, many of the surrounding areas have not been so fortunate.

FSC organizer and Golden Bear resident Neal Van Alfen noted that nowhere in the past 10 years has an area been “more frequently scorched in the state” than in our area. He said Golden Bear residents have been evacuated six out the past eight years due to wildfires.

Van Alfen emphasized the importance of fire threat awareness to proactively make a “fire harder home.” Strategically, he said, the objective is to reduce the fire threat to Winters by better protecting areas west and north of town.

Towns like Winters are not immune to wildfires as evidenced in 2017 with the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa that burned hundreds of homes and the 2018 Camp fire that burned 153,000 acres, killed 86 and wiped out the town of Paradise. Van Alfen said fire embers from burning trees and grass travel with the wind and can enter a home’s ventilation system and cause house fires.

The neighborhoods in rural areas surrounding Winters are unique and require individual assessments to identify and address fire danger. FSCs work to develop routes of safe egress and detect and mitigate likely fuel sources such as grass, trees, chemicals, dead and dry lumber and fuel tanks.

“We are also coordinating efforts and sharing information along with our neighboring Solano County Fire Safe Council which brings tremendous value in our goals to serving our members of the Greater Winters Area,” said Lopez.

FSC organizer and Solano County, Winters resident Revalee Hemken said the FSC is working to organize and empower neighborhoods to defend themselves against wildfires and identify and alert each other of bigger problems. A community-based council can be as small as seven homes or as large as fifty, said Hemken.

Winters area residents are encouraged to participate. For more information, to join or start a community-based FSC, contact Neal Van Alfen at 530-304-7633 or Revalee Hemken at 707-529-8873.

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