El Dorado County forms Wildfire Resiliency Office

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County has created a Wildfire Resiliency Office, which will implement a countywide wildfire protection strategy.

A wildfire resiliency and vegetation management working group, which was established in September 2021 to determine lessons learned from the Caldor Fire and to recommend fire-defense strategies, brought the concept to the county Board of Supervisors March 22 as a solution to help the county formulate a singular effort to perform fire-resiliency efforts.

“Although there are many efforts going on in the county that are valuable, we really don’t have a single process for establishing priorities and coordinating those projects across all disciplines,” said El Dorado County Fire Safe Council Chair Ken Pimlott, who is also part of the working group.

The new office will operate under the Chief Administrative Office and consists of a program manager, a fire safe coordinator and staff to work on applying for the state’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The goal of the office is to prioritize and coordinate countywide protection strategies.

Other responsibilities of the office would include coordinating wildfire and vegetation management projects, keeping updated with building code changes, facilitating program priorities for the county vegetation management ordinance and managing funds that come from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The county hopes to receive more than $10 million from the grant program, which would help offset costs for home fire mitigation and prevention.

District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl said he is worried about funds running out on such a project.

“We don’t want to run in the same situation where we were with the Parks and Recreation Department where funds were depleted and we had to stop funding those projects,” Hidahl said, suggesting to look for alternative funding in the future.

The board approved a $3 million match for the grant.

The fire resiliency working group also determined areas in which the county could improve its fire-defense efforts.

Pimlott told supervisors that public outreach has been conducted by each fire agency, which members of the working group hope can be used to create a singular countywide message in the future.

“The public is being informed with all of these messages but they’re not understanding how it all relates together into one fire-safe county,” Pimlott said.

Another project the wildfire resiliency working group is looking into is establishing a data hub and collection point into a standardized tracking method. This would include a map display to help pinpoint county areas of concern and establish a coordinated approach to public outreach with consistent messaging across all media platforms.

Identifying areas that are most at risk of wildfire is another objective of the working group.

District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel recommended having conversations with the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to be inclusive of the entire county.

“I recommend that (this group) work from the beginning as one …” Novasel said. “You’re talking about a countywide program and it needs to be countywide. It’s not countywide if you’re not inclusive with the entire county, which does include the Tahoe Basin.”

The Board of Supervisors unanimously praised the working group for its findings and recommendations, approving of the new Wildfire Resiliency Office and the match funding for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

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