Forest Health and Fire Resiliency Program
Forest Health and Planning for Fire
Due to local topography, high fuel loads, and frequent extreme drought conditions, the Central Coast of California has significant potential for catastrophic wildfires. An increasing number of houses are built in the Wildland Urban Interface across the region, inadvertently impacting natural fire regimes due to suppression efforts to protect property. Large swaths of chaparral, oak woodlands, and mixed conifer forests have not burned in decades, creating the potential for increased carbon dioxide emissions, flooding, erosion, and ecosystem type conversion in the event of wildfire. Forest and ecosystem health diminishes when fire is suppressed, making natural systems less resilient in the face of climate change.
In San Mateo County, there is a clear need for:
- Improving forest health
- Creating adequate defensible space around homes
- Minimizing fuel loads across larger landscapes
- Reducing the spread of invasive plants and pathogens
- Providing technical forestry assistance
- Providing post-fire landowner assistance on the Central Coast
In addition to addressing threats and impacts of wildfire, improved forest management is needed in the region to:
- Enhance stream and riparian function,
- Restore critical habitats for threatened and endangered species
- To sequester greenhouse gases
- To reduce erosion and sediment loading of impaired waterways
In response to these needs, the Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) of California’s Central Coast are leading delivery of a regional forest health and resiliency program in coordination with local fire safe councils and numerous other partners.
The San Mateo RCD’s current roles are:
- Coordinating Fire Safe San Mateo County, the Fire Safe Council covering San Mateo County
- Developing programmatic permits and streamlined permitting tools for forest health and fire resiliency projects (fuels treatment)
- Providing technical assistance to landowners to design, permit and implement projects
- Coordinating the implementation of fuel treatment projects, like community chipper programs to help homeowners create and manage defensible space around homes and roads
- Coordinating the implementation of fuel breaks along key emergency access and evacuation routes
- Coordinating the development, designs, permitting and implementation of road and bridge/crossing maintenance along key emergency access and evacuation routes
- Providing technical assistance to landowners and managers to develop forest and vegetation management plans to aid with enhancing forest health and fire resiliency
- San Mateo Fire Safe Council
- RCD of Santa Cruz County
- San Mateo County
- CAL FIRE
Recovering From Fire
In the wake of the August 2020 CZU Lightning Fire Complex, the RCD is providing support to those impacted by wildfires in our community. If you have natural resources concerns on your fire-impacted property, please contact Sheena Sidhu at sheena@sanmateoRCD.org.
Services We Offer
The RCD is offering these current services related to fire recovery and resiliency in our impacted watersheds:
- Technical assistance information and site visits to determine resource needs and appropriate actions concerning erosion, riparian areas, forest management, etc.
- Information and resources will be sent out in our electronic newsletters.
- Connecting landowners with funding resources available for post-fire natural resource protection.
- Natural resource permit assistance on a fee for service basis.
Preparing for Winter After the Fire: What Property Owners Can Do
- You can help by taking simple steps by placing straw wattles, hay bales, and mulch around burned areas to reduce the chances of ashes and other material from washing into streams. Be sure that these are certified weed free so that you don’t infest your natural area with weeds.
- Remember that everything that is outside drains to creeks and streams. Don’t use leaf blowers or hoses to remove ash and debris.
- Get help from professionals who are certified, registered and/or licensed before selecting and installing large, permanent or semi-permanent treatment measures.
- Wear protective gear whenever you work in burned areas.
- Watch for unusual movement of water, land, and debris during or after rain, particularly if your property is on a hillside.
- Have an emergency plan and leave your property if it becomes unsafe during or after a storm.
- Minimize soil and slope disturbances. Ash, leaf drop, downed trees and remnant burned vegetation all play a role in protecting the soil and slopes following wildfire.
- Work with your neighbors. Runoff, erosion & debris flows have no boundaries.
- Private roads require more maintenance in the first few winters following wildfire. Clear debris upstream of culverts as possible, and check culverts for clogging after every storm. If culverts or other road drainage structures do not appear to be functioning properly, consult a professional.
Resources for Homeowners and Landowners
Fire Recovery: Other Helpful Information for All Properties
- California Native Plant Society Fire Recovery Guide (updated 2019)
- Living with Fire in Sonoma County
- Dos and Don’ts (PDF)
- Post Fire Top Ten Things to Consider (PDF)
- Protecting Bare Soil Following Wildfire
- Some Notes About Seeding Grasses Following Wildfire
- A Note About Mulching for Erosion Control After Wildfire
- Straw Wattle Typical Drawing from NCRCD
NRCS After the Fire Fact Sheets: Preparing Your Property for Winter
- Contour Sandbags (PDF)
- Erosion Control Mats (PDF)
- Hand Raking (PDF)
- Hillside Home Drainage (PDF)
- Hydromulching (PDF)
- Log Erosion Barriers (PDF)
- Sandbag Barrier (PDF)
- Seeding (PDF)
Local Native Grass Seed Sources and Erosion Control Supplies Contacts List
- Natural Resources Recovery Guide
- Hedgerow Farms – Winters
- LeBallisters – Santa Rosa
- Harmony Farm Supply –Sebastopol
Resources for Fire-damaged Forests and Oak Woodlands (all NRCS, UCCE, Cal Fire sources)
- Burned Oaks – Which Will Survive? (PDF)
- Recovering from Wildfire – Forest and Woodland (PDF)
- Fire Restoration Forestland and Woodland (PDF)
- Survival of Fire Injured Conifers in California (PDF)
Funding and Assistance Programs
- Coming soon!