Napa County jumpstarts fire season preparation with $6.4M

Napa County has allocated $6.4 million to jump start fire prevention efforts aimed at protecting vulnerable communities.

On Wednesday, fuel reduction crews were clearing hazardous vegetation from the Circle Oaks neighborhood near Atlas Peak. Heavy brush surrounds roughly 200 homes in the subdivision.

Napa County Fire Chief Geoff Belyea said the crews created a shaded fuel break to help firefighters should a fire break out in the coming months.

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"We're leaving the bulk of the mature trees and we're taking all the fuels out around them… so it makes the fire behavior less intense," Belyea said.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors voted on April 6 to provide $6.4 million for Napa Firewise and the Napa County Fire Department. The Circle Oaks neighborhood is the first project to be addressed with the funding. Napa County Board Chair Alfredo Pedroza called it the start of a 5 year, $42 million vegetation management plan for the county.

"It’s about spending money on prevention, vs spending money after a fire," Pedroza said. "This is a great investment in our communities and our residences who have had to face fire threat repeatedly."

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Circle Oaks residents like Rick Evans know the importance of fire preparedness. He said the neighborhood was evacuated for a wildfire in 2017 and again in 2020 during the LNU Complex Fire.

"It’s a monumental task to make us all safer here in Circle Oaks," Evans said. "I’ve been here for four years and I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first moved out here."

Evans has since been active in fire prevention efforts. He knows the importance of creating defensible space around his home, has a go-bag and an evacuation plan in place and encourages other residents to do the same.

"I don’t think anything prepares you ever for the possibility that your home may burn completely down," he added. "Wildfire becomes a continuous preparation mentality."