Due to years of flammable material buildup around the Silverado Residential Community, combined with fierce winds in October 2017, the Atlas Fire destroyed 153 homes throughout the community.
NCFF has built a comprehensive and adaptable Wildfire Resilience Action Program (WRAP) with partner organizations that creates a long-term action plan to reduce the risk and impacts of wildland fire throughout Napa County. The plan clears evacuation routes and creates community fuel breaks. Silverado was identified in these plans as an area in Napa where fire fuel load was once again a threat to the entire community.
In mid-2021 NCFF raised funds from the County. By late 2021 NCFF had obtained (1) the necessary permits from the County, (2) signatures from participating landowners granting access to their properties, and (3) engaged a third-party contractor, Napa-based JMC Valley Construction Inc (JMC). Fuel reduction work commenced in December 2021 and was substantially completed by the end of March 2022.
The grant and amount estimated for the work was over $700K. The cost of actual work plus funds to complete the pile burning later this year is approximately $500K. The reduction in costs were due to a cooperative agreement between Napa County and CAL FIRE where state-funded CAL FIRE firefighter crews were available to provide hand labor, hazardous tree removal, wood chipping, and pile burning at no cost to the project – a good example of state and local cooperation when there is a defined community benefit and plan for fuel reduction.
The Silverado Residential Community Perimeter Fuel Break project was designed to increase defensible space a minimum of 100’ from the border of various Silverado Residential Community properties where conditions permitted, up to 300’. This Fuel Break was created by removing the volume of flammable vegetation, including clearing tree branches, vertically and horizontally, using manual labor and hand tools, chain saws, weed whackers and pole saws, on private property contiguous to the Community Perimeter. No heavy equipment such as masticators, bulldozers or other earth movers were used.
NCFF cleared this 100-300’ Fuel Break starting at Atlas peak, behind Westgate, around the Crest and Highlands, upper Westgate, Pinnacle Peak, Maui, Burning Tree, and St. Andrews. Clearing was also completed around the City of Napa water infrastructure next to the Highlands to help protect the watershed. The effort in and around Milliken Creek was difficult due to the steep terrain, and in February and March, piles of material were burned through a collaborative effort between NCFF, the Napa County Fire Department, volunteer firefighters, a private fuels crew,
CAL FIRE, and the Silverado Fire Safe Council. The total project covered more than 16,000 linear feet (over 3 miles) and over 77 acres of Fuel Break.
Due to the dry winter, piles still remain, and funding has been allocated for another controlled burn planned in November/December of 2022 to remove the remaining material. The piles pose far less risk than the flammable material that was removed.
The Silverado community was traumatized in October 2017, but it was the first day for many to adapt to learn how to live with fire. The Fuel Break is the first step to making a difference in reducing the impact of fires that will inevitably come from the hills above Silverado. The controlled burns are also an important step to adjusting to “good fire” during the right time of year which decreases the risk of loss of life and property during a bad fire.
The cost of the CWPP 5-year plan that includes this project totals $42.5M. The expanded County plan with projects from partners like California State Parks, Land Trust of Napa County, and Napa County Resource Conservation District totals over $100M. Plus, the cost to maintain the fuel breaks and evacuation routes will be ongoing. This effort is just the beginning.
For more information, go to:
Community Wildfire Protection Plan: https://ncff-cwpp-dms-usa.hub.arcgis.com/
Descriptions of projects in the Napa County WRAP and associated Living CWPP: https://napafirewise.org/programs/ncff-5-year-plan/