LATEST Newsletter

May 29, 2021

Safer West County Fire Safe Groups
June 2021 Newsletter
JUNE 19th Evacuation Drill
Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management, in conjunction with Fire Safe Occidental (FSO), Fire Safe Camp Meeker (FSCM) and Safer West County (SWC) will hold an evacuation drill on June 19th, to practice evacuating our homes and communities in the event of an “immediate” evacuation (i.e. an evacuation in response to a nearby, rapidly-building, wind-driven, take your family and run, wildfire.)

The drill area includes Camp Meeker and Occidental.  The county will mail drill information to residents of Camp Meeker and most of the Occidental Community Services District (OCSD).  Due to Sheriff Department limitations, some OCSD residents will not receive a postcard message, but we are encouraging everyone to sign up for the alerts and to participate. To sign up go to the June 19 Evacuation Drill web page.  Then click on “+ Camp Meeker/Occidental Saturday, June 19th”  and use the Registration button.

To provide both the county and our community with a more realistic evacuation experience, we hope that at least one person from each household participates in the drill.  We want this drill to familiarize everyone with egress routes and help Emergency Management assess their ability to support the swift safe evacuation of people, pets, and livestock.

Around 9 am on June 19th, county sheriffs will drive through the drill areas with Hi-Lo sirens, and the Occidental Volunteer Fire Department will sound their siren–alerting people to immediately evacuate.  These sirens indicate the start of the drill.

NOTE: In an actual disaster you can dial 211 to get a list of shelters including those for special needs.
 New Evacuation Zones 
New Evacuation Zones have been announced by the county.  To find your zone, and make sure everyone in your family knows which zone you are in, go to the Know Your Zone web page. On this page Use The Zone Lookup Tool to Enter your Address and you will be given your zone name.

Save this for future use in emergencies and Use the County’s interactive Evacuation Zone Map to see where boundaries are.

If you are not already signed up for SoCoAlert and Nixle, please click on Sign Up for Alerts on the upper right of this web page.

 Shout out to Catholic Charities CYO camp
 A special shout out to Catholic Charities CYO for their recent fuel reduction work. Over the past 5 weekends, crews have removed and chipped ladder fuel around their large water tank that serves southern Occidental and their camp, plus the area along their internal roads that might provide secondary egress for the community along Mara and Bittner Roads.
 Before clearing around the CYO Water Tank
 After clearing around the CYO Water Tank
 Planning a neighborhood work party?
SWC has hand tools available for neighborhood groups to do volunteer days. We have loppers, hand saws, clippers, rakes, pole saws, sapling pullers, tarps and much more. Our only requirement is that they are returned cleaned, sharpened, and in good working order. Your neighborhood leader should contact us at for to arrange using them.
 Coalition of Camps and Large property owners along Bohemian Highway
Recently, Safer West County collaborated with a group of large parcel owners from Monte Rio to Freestone to improve this important evacuation corridor and create defensible space and fuel break areas for firefighters should they need to protect our communities within the surrounding forests.

The effort culminated in grant applications to fund significant fuel reduction projects and has also resulted in a long-term coalition with new members joining the strategic and tactical discussion of how to improve our forest and community resilience now and in the years to come. We are very grateful for the initial participants who hold more than 2600 acres in our area:

●   Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds
●   Bohemia Ecological Preserve
●   Bohemia Preserve, LLC
●   Camp Meeker Recreation and Park District
●   CYO Camp (Catholic Charities of San Francisco)
●   Green Valley Farm and Mill
●   Harmony School District
●   Mighty Arrow Ranch, LLC
●   Monte Rio Recreation and Park District
●   Mt. Gilead Bible Camp and Conference Center (youth camps and conferences)
●   Sowing Circle, LLC/Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (educational center)
●   St. Dorothy’s Episcopal Camp and Retreat Center (youth camps and conferences)
●   Two Sisters Place (private residence)
●   Westminster Woods (youth camps and conferences)

The collaborative process and grant application was hugely supported by Fire Safe Sonoma, Goldridge RCD, Circuit Riders, and Conservation Corp North Bay, as well as local CAL FIRE and Fire Chiefs from Monte Rio, Graton, Occidental, and Goldridge.
 Fire Safe Occidental News
Residents of Joy, Bittner, Deer Meadow and Willow Creek roads ~ We just learned of a County home hardening and defensible space funding program which is open to individuals on these roads. This is the first such program we have seen which is targeting individual property owners. Please study the map on the SoCOAdapts web page by clicking on the Sonoma County Wildfire Adapted Project Area Map Viewer to determine if you are in the selected area.

The map is detailed enough to see individual parcels if you zoom in. We highly encourage all of you to apply if you are eligible. Cost is one of the huge elements holding many of us back from increasing the safety of our homes. This project is aimed to assist! 

County free chipping will resume in Occidental this month.  Please make sure you have applied for chipping by emailing, so we can help facilitate properties close to each other and improve efficiency (and hence number of days we get help!) 
 DONATE TODAYStay safe and keep in touch. Safer West County is always looking for people who can get involved or ideas you may have about how we can best serve our community.Subscribe to Safer West County

May 9, 2021

Safer West County Fire Safe Groups

May 9, 2021Evacuation Drill!
Save the date!  June 19th!

Fire Safe Occidental and Fire Safe Camp Meeker members have been meeting with County officials for the last year to arrange an evacuation drill for our area.  The date has been confirmed. Details are still being worked out and more information will be available very soon.

Watch for a special edition of the newsletter covering all you need to know and special mailings from the County.  We hope you will all participate and both learn from the experience and teach the county where our traffic hot spots will be in the case of a true immediate evacuation order!
End of Burn Pile permits on
May 10th (this coming Monday)

Chief Lunardi shared with Safer West County that the increasing fire danger posed by dead grass and hotter, drier conditions in the region is prompting CAL FIRE to suspend all burn permits for outdoor residential burning within the State Responsibility Areas of Sonoma, Lake, Napa, Solano, Yolo and Colusa counties.

This suspension takes effect Monday May 10th, 2021 and bans all residential outdoor burning of landscape debris such as branches and leaves.  For more details of the CALfire notice go to our Nextdoor post.

Even though you can’t burn you can get FREE Chipping. Gratefully there are piles all around our area that show how hard some of you are working at creating a safer community!  Thank you! These piles can be handled quickly through BAAQ grant with Davey Trees.

You can apply for FREE chipping here. Just fill out the application and also let Safer West County know you have applied by emailing, so we can help facilitate logistics for properties close to each other and improve efficiency (and hence number of days we get help!) 
 Volunteer Tools Available
 SWC has tools available for neighborhood groups to use for volunteer workdays. As part of organizing our AmeriCorps team, Safer West County purchased hand tools which are now available for neighborhood groups to borrow. We have loppers, hand saws, clippers, rakes, pole saws, sapling pullers, tarps and much more. Our only requirement is that they are returned cleaned, sharpened and in good order.

Let us know what you are doing…. here is what some neighborhoods have been doing:

Neighborhood # 2 (Dupont) planned a workday to help a resident who just had a stroke. One neighbor offered to pay for a weed-whacking session on the property, and this was carried out prior to a rainy burn-day. The same generous neighbor did a dump run with non-burnable debris. This community has a wonderful closeness and willingness to help each other, and this is a great example of their caring. It’s a beautiful sight to see neighbors are helping neighbors!

Neighborhood # 13 (Bittner and Marra) has started monthly shared workdays. The May workday saw six people helping a neighbor with some physical challenges get inches of duff removed from the area around her water tanks, along with some limbing-up and small tree removal. We also cleared vegetation from around and under her deck. We’re looking forward to our June workday and even more participation from the neighborhood.

 Work will start early this summer on roadways around Occidental thanks to two grants that have been awarded Fire Safe Occidental & Safer West County for evacuation roadway clearing.

The Conservation Corp of the North Bay will be clearing roadside vegetation back to the full distance allowed by the County easement along stretches of Joy Rd, BittnerRd, and Coleman Valley Rd. The County normally limits their clearing to 5’ from the roadway. Many easements are a full 15’. When CCNB takes down the dead trees, clears ladder fuels and limbs up trees 15’ on either side of the roadway, we will have safer roads for evacuation and approximately 45’ of shaded fuel break on our these roads!  

Information will be sent out to the property owners along the roadways in the next few weeks. Please send the forms back quickly so we can get started as soon as nesting season allows.

May 1, 2021

Safer West County Fire Safe Groups
News Update

May 1, 2021Update on Burn Permits
 Chief Lunardi of the Occidental Volunteer Fire Department has passed on word from Cal Fire that it’s likely that we have one week from this Monday to complete burning any burn piles this year.

As of today, May 1st, 2021, the annual requirement for CAL FIRE burn permits to conduct open burning begins. Burn permits can still be obtained from Cal Fire at It is most likely that burn permit suspension in our area will begin on Monday May 10th.

For piles no larger than 4’x4’, an applicant can go online and watch a video and print their permit.

For larger piles or broadcast burns an inspection will be required before a permit is issued. 

Note, that you also need your local air-quality control district permit in addition to the CalFire permit. The Air-Quality permits expired 3/30 and, if you have not yet done so, you need to renew your permit before you can burn: for the Northern Sonoma district. This permit is $30 plus a small fee. Note that burn hours have changed to 6:00am to 12 noon.
 Chipping w/ Davey Trees
 Although the County chipping crew will not be back in our area until June, we found another opportunity for you to get free chipping done. Davey Trees is doing the work under a grant from Bay Area Air Quality.

If you have chipping piles ready to chip, contact David Shatkin for more details: Please support Safer West CountyDONATE TODAY

April 27, 2021

SaferWestCounty FireSafeGroups April27,2021 Newsletter


Safer West County and your local Fire Safe Councils have been busy working towards a safer community for you. This work is done completely by volunteers and we welcome you to join us in any capacity large or small based on your “prior life” experience or just what you are passionate about.

We are writing grants, networking with State, County, and other public and private organizations, working on creating local microgrids, creating educational and community outreach material, and investigating best practices on anything from radio communications to forest health, and more.

Join us. You will make wonderful friends and contribute to the area you love becoming a more resilient community.


Although the County chipping crew will not be back in our area until June, we found another opportunity for you to get free chipping done. Davey Trees is doing the work under a grant from Bay Area Air Quality.

If you have chipping piles ready to chip, contact

DavidShatkinfor more details:


We have been so grateful to the work our AmeriCorps team has done at a dozen of our homes in Freestone and Occidental. The crew was pulled away to work at vaccination sites and will return briefly next week for a few more days work.

If you requested work and haven’t been scheduled, we may not get to you this round. However, Safer West County is actively applying for more crews to join us when we can get them.

In the meantime, if you have the resources to pay for a crew, we recommend you contact Circuit Riders ( who will not only send an

equipped crew but their program is also training an expanding workforce at the same time so we have people in our community who understand defensible space and fire mitigation landscape work and requirements.


Just in case you haven’t seen this, there are a series of fire prep workshops on the community wildfire protection plan for Sonoma. District 5 is being covered on May 6th. Here is the link to the meeting and registration, should you want to participate.

Supervisorial District #5 Wildfire Protection Plan Public Input Workshop

March 26, 2021
Safer West County Fire Safe Groups
March 26, 2021 Newsletter
AmeriCorps volunteers are busy
making West County a little bit safer,
one home at a time!

 The past two weeks, 7 homes in West County became a little safer for some of our neighbors. Safer West County equipped five AmeriCorps volunteers with pruners, loppers, rakes, pole saws, bow saws, hard hats, and a wheelbarrow and these volunteers cleared gutters, removed dead debris, moved firewood, and tall plants extending into roof and soffits as well as limbed lower tree branches. Our community will reap rewards from this effort long after the next 9 weeks of work and our goal is to help landowners who cannot do the work themselves and do not have the means to hire help to do it. 

As you know, structures can burn from falling embers igniting things close to our homes even when a wildfire has not reached the area. This is often a bigger risk to our neighborhoods during high wind fires than the front of the wildfire reaching us. That’s why ensuring all our homes are less likely to catch fire is really important. You can learn more about how to improve your home here

One of our first AmeriCorp jobs was to clear massive amounts of vegetation immediately adjacent to a home in Neighborhood #1 for a 94-year-old resident. The Neighborhood Pod Leader not only supervised but stayed for most of the day and helped the crew, as did a second resident. Other neighbors also came by to thank the crew and admire their work. We took numerous truckloads of plant debris to an already large pile in an open pasture. The Neighborhood Leader bought a burn permit for the resident, and we will have our first post-covid get-together in April—a wiener-roast and potluck over burning dried vegetation.

Read to the bottom to see pictures from last week’s efforts and comments from the volunteers and neighbors.Hire a team to help with your
defensible space and fire mitigation efforts.

 We have much more work in our community than will be done by the AmeriCorps volunteers so Safer West County is fortunate to be able to team up with an amazing organization, Circuit Riders (a non-profit), that can not only help you do the work, but is training a group of local youth to be our resource for years to come.

You can get help today by contacting Circuit Riders – click here for details – or see below for more
 Bird nesting –  March 1 to August 31
 As you move into action on your land, remember to care for our flying friends.  Here is a great resource from the Golden Gate Audubon Society on tree care and bird safety:

…and laws protecting birds :

Note: Quail nest on the ground in shallow depressions, and also need protecting.  According to Cornell Labs, a preeminent source of bird research, “Female California Quail typically hide their nests on the ground amid grasses or at the bases of shrubs or trees. The nest is usually a shallow depression lined with stems and grasses, and often placed near vegetation or rocks for protection. Nests range from 5-7 inches across and 1-2 inches deep.”
 Free chipping continues in West county both through the Sonoma County program and Davey Trees for Bay Area Air Quality.  If you are ready for help, please contact your Fire Safe Council or email David Shatkin for details 
 Experiences from the First Week of
AmeriCorps Defensible Space Work

Here are samplings of some the critical defensible space projects our AmeriCorps team completed the past few weeks on Lauri Ln, Harrison Grade Place, Bohemian Hwy, Facendini Ln, Joy Ridge, Dear Meadow Ln, Harmony Village, Morelli Ln, and Joy Rd.

1. We found large amounts of lumber and firewood close to houses. Our team moved and stacked it away from structures.
 BEFORE – Firewood & Lumber close to house
  AFTER – Firewood & Lumber close to house
2. Lots of landscaping near homes was growing up into the eaves often with dead branches and our team trimmed the plants based on the owner’s instructions.
 BEFORE – Plants over roofline
 AFTER – Plants over roofline
3. Removing the amount of vegetation right next to the houses.
 BEFORE – Plants growing under structure
 AFTER – Plants growing under structure
 BEFORE – Vegetation right up to house 
 AFTER – Vegetation up to house (still not perfect, but way better than before)
 4. Clearing around propane tanks was another important task at many homes.
 BEFORE – Clearing propane tanks
 AFTER – Clearing propane tanks
  We are still accepting applications for the wonderful service this AmeriCorps team is doing.

 Comments Made the First Week of
AmeriCorps Defensible Space Work

– “The Americorp workers did a very good job, worked very hard, and were a friendly group.”  Freestone landowner

– “It has been very gratifying to help people so far in my experience with safer west county. The residents have been so incredibly appreciative of our volunteer work.” -Jake Heil

– “So far working with Safer West County has been such a fulfilling experience. Being able to interact with homeowners and community members allows for us to create a connection with those we are serving. On top of all of that–seeing neighbors come out to help at the properties we are serving shows what incredible people you all have in your communities.” – Kelly Saldarriaga 

– “Everyone of Safer West County has been extremely helpful in guiding us through our first week. The residents as well as their neighbors and friends have also been appreciative and welcoming to the team. They have provided help with tools, guidance, and manual labor.” – Sheyla Gonzalez

– “Working with Safter West County has been my favorite project work since the beginning of my time with AmeriCorps. The people we have worked with have been nothing but grateful about the work we’re doing.” – Daniel Cantrell

– “Everyone we have worked with through Safer West County has been extremely generous and helpful.” – Joseph Davis
 Circuit Rider Community Services

 Fire Safe Occidental Fire Safe Occidental was awarded
Best Fire Preparedness Service
in Sonoma County! 

Thanks to everyone who voted for us and gave us this honor!  Please support Safer West CountyDONATE TODAY
Stay safe and keep in touch. Safer West County is always looking for people who can get involved or ideas you may have about how we can best serve our community.Subscribe to Safer West County