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Forest Service Begins Fire Defense Project to Protect Mountain Communities

A project to thin out thick brush around mountain communities has begun in the Los Padres National Forest on the Santa Barbara county front country.

Over 400 acres have been mapped out to create a zone where heavy brush can been removed. If there is a major fire, the flame lengths will be smaller. That will reduce the ferocious impact wildland fires can have when no brush clearing is done. It’s designed to save lives and property.

Nic Elmquist, a Forest Service Fuels Officer, says the plan will help fire crews take on fires near structures. “Often times what we say is flame lengths less than eight feet, we can engage them with personnel on the ground, not necessarily to stop the fire but to give them a save operating area for the first responders and firefighters in the area of houses, structures and other fire areas, ” he said.

Residents in mountain communities including Painted Cave, Rosario Park, the San Marcos Trout Club and sites on the Refugio and Gaviota coastlines have commented on the plan prior to the approval.

The Wildland Residents Association off San Marcos Pass have been active in the project and working closely with the Forest Service study for the upcoming work. “The desire and need to do something is increasing, ” said Mike Williams who is part of a volunteer fire team in the hills, and operates a low wattage information radio station on San Marcos Pass.

Work could begin this fall in cool, calm conditions.

The U.S. Forest service plan is in coordination with the existing county and residential clearing.

Full information from the Los Padres National Forest:

Los Padres Announces Community Defense Zone Fuel Treatments

GOLETA, CA, September 12, 2016…Los Padres National Forest officials today announced the decision to implement the Santa Barbara Mountain Communities Defense Zone Project. The project work is designed to help protect the communities of Painted Cave, San Marcos Trout Club, Haney Tract, Rosario Park, Refugio and Gaviota by enabling fire crews to better defend human life, structures and wildlife habitat from wildland fire.

The project will accomplish these goals by creating and improving existing fuel breaks located around the local communities and roads adjacent to Los Padres National Forest.

By modifying the pre-existing vegetation , the fuel breaks will lessen the intensity of fire behavior within these zones. As wildfire moves into the fuel breaks, fire behavior—as measured by flame length—will lessen in intensity and help firefighters to more safely access and engage the fire. The project is intended to improve safety both to the public and first responders by providing safer access and evacuation routes adjacent to and within the communities at risk.

The woody debris cut during these treatments can be treated in a variety of ways. It can be chipped and left on the site to decompose, or it can be piled and burned on site. No herbicide treatments or road construction will occur.

This project will help better protect communities from a wildfire moving from National Forest System land onto private land. It will also reduce risk to critical forest watersheds by helping prevent a wildfire moving from adjacent private lands onto the national forest.

This project was designed using the principals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. These principles are to work collaboratively among stakeholders using the best available science to make meaningful progress towards the three goals of creating more resilient landscapes; more fire adaptive communities; and a safer and more effective wildfire response. More information regarding the National Cohesive Strategy can be found online at

For more information regarding the project, visit the Los Padres National Forest website at or call the Supervisor’s Office at (805) 968-6640.

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