The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a pair of agreements Tuesday to protect and better manage fire-prone areas in county parks, according to Supervisor Joe Simitian.
The first approved agreement is with the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council, which will provide forest health management services to the county through March 31, 2025.
The Firesafe Council is a non-profit, grassroots organization that provides education and project assistance for homeowners and landowners that are vulnerable to wildfire in Santa Clara County. The organization also works with Cal Fire, Santa Clara County Fire and other public agencies, businesses and private landowners to design and implement protective measures against wildfires.
The agreement allows Santa Clara County to participate in the Los Gatos Watershed Forest Health Program, which was awarded a $7.5 million Cal Fire Forest Health Grant in 2021. The program was established to promote ecosystem resilience, mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the region, and protect drinking water reservoirs and sensitive nature and endemic species in southern Silicon Valley.
With the money provided by the grant, the FireSafe Council will remove trees and dense brush on 290 acres of parkland in Sanborn and Upper Stevens Creek parks.
"This is necessary, and comes at an opportune time -- in the midst of yet another intense fire season," said Simitian, whose District 5 includes the higher-risk wildland-urban interface stretching from Los Altos Hills in the north to San Jose's Almaden Valley in the south. "We know that regular maintenance of dense trees and brush goes a long way toward reducing severe wildfire risk and restoring healthy forest conditions."
The board on Tuesday also approved a five-year lease agreement with the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District for a 2,400-square-foot modular building in Vasona Lake County Park, located in Los Gatos and part of the Santa Clara County Parks system. Central Fire will base its pilot pre-fire management and wildfire resilience program crew in the building, which was previously occupied by Parks and Recreation Department staff.
Instead of paying rent on the building, Central Fire has the option to provide training to park staff and perform fuel reduction activities at Vasona and other county parks, including removing hazardous fuels from around structures.
The approved agreement comes with two five-year extension options.
"This is a win-win for Parks and Central Fire, and also for the surrounding communities around our County parks," Simitian said. "It will give Central Fire a presence at Vasona, and we get some use out of a building that had been sitting empty but will now be used for a program that makes our communities safer."