By Melanie Johnson
DAVIS, CA – On Tuesday morning, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors received a staff presentation regarding the allocation of state budget funds to enhance fire preparedness and unanimously approved the presented expenditure plan.
Dana Carey, manager of the Yolo Office of Emergency Services (OES), presented her recommendation on how Yolo County should spend approximately 1.5 million dollars in state budget funding secured by Senator Dodd’s office.
These funds were procured in response to the LNU Lightning Complex fires which burned a total of 363,220 acres and destroyed or damaged nearly 2,000 homes along the western border of Yolo County in 2020.
Carey emphasized the relevance of this funding for the county, stating “we’ve had about six fires in seven years, just out of the nine years that I’ve been emergency manager in this county.”
She also referenced the creation of the Yolo County Fire Safe Council (YCFSC) in response to the LNU fire, “run out of a joint partnership between the Yolo County Resource Conservation District and the Yolo Office of Emergency Services,” and with whom the OES has worked closely to develop their recommendations to the board.
According to Carey, their recommendation prioritizes “things that will be benefiting the 2022 fire season if possible since the money is hopefully going to be here in March, as well as taking care of areas where we repetitively burn,” most of which are on the western border of the county.
The OES recommendation for fund allocation includes a siren system design, a chipper program – which would help create defensible space around structures and access roads, Grantline Road Fire Access – which would establish a fire break where firefighters could hold off the spread of fires, address signage, and fuel reduction.
Carey specified that the siren system design project entails a contractor’s partnership “with both OES offices in Solano and Yolo to recommend enhancements communication-wise … based on some negative things that happened with alert in the morning … of the LNU fire.”
The allocated funding for the chipper program, while not meeting the total expected cost, was explained by Carey as “just a bite at that first apple to get something done for the 2022 fire season.”
She also emphasized the critical importance of the creation of a fire break in the Grantline Road Fire Access project, as it would establish “a place where our fire professionals actually decide to kind of hold a line in fire trying to keep it from either coming past north, south, east, or west of that point . . . we might have a chance of holding [future fires].”
The address signage project entails the mounting of address signs at “the height of our fire apparatus or ambulance providers’ units,” making it “an all-hazards project because we also have challenges on 911 calls for medical aid and things of that nature.” Carey explained that, while this project’s funding does include “some padding,” any extra funds could be rolled over into other projects.
Finally, Carey detailed the fuel reduction project which includes “six projects listed from the Fire Safe Council’s recommendations,” and a seventh which was identified “over this weekend . . . with the Winters Fire Safe Council,” the removal of eucalyptus trees.
Supervisor Jim Provenza commented on the urgency of this plan, stating that, “There have been serious fires here in the past and many homes are close so if it was a fire that spread to a home it could spread to a thousand homes pretty quickly; probably before there’s a chance to evacuate all the people inside, so we’re very concerned to have this project go forward this year.”
Multiple public commenters expressed their emphatic support for this expenditure plan, one of whom was Bill Weisgerber of the East Davis County Fire Protection District.
He explained the importance of prevention, “This is a very important prevention project to the east county and will have a very positive impact on untold residential properties. As some of you know I’m a retired fire chief and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of these types of projects getting under way before an incident occurs.”
Supervisor Don Saylor also expressed his unreserved endorsement of Carey’s recommendations.
In recounting his attendance of community meetings following the LNU fire, Saylor described, “We were silent, and that’s kind of unusual for elected officials. We listened to the experience that was fairly recent, was very traumatic for individuals as they described their experience the night of the fire.”
He continued, “And this wasn’t an unusual circumstance; this was the sixth time in an eight-year period where this area had been subjected to fire. This one was much faster and it was much more impactful; we lost a lot of houses in Solano County and we had quite a number of evacuations in Yolo County and thankfully, not so many losses.”
Saylor concluded that, “We need to say yes to the recommendation, to make the investment of these funds so dearly sought. It’s our moral responsibility to do so, it’s our trust that this community has come forward and given us. We listen and then we act. That’s the best of what service we can do.”
The board voted unanimously to accept the OES recommendation for allocation of these funds.