Jack London Park vulnerable to wild fires

Posted on June 5, 2014 by Sonoma Valley Sun

london fire control
Calling the drought-dried Jack London State Historic Park a “virtual tinderbox,” officials have a launched campaign to protect the 1,400-acre Glen Ellen facility.

The “Join the Force—Take Action to Prevent Wildfires” initiative broadens a fundraising effort that was initially targeted to individual donors to raise $80,000 to create “defensible space”” at the park.

“Because of the extreme dryness of fuels this year and the early onset of the fire season, fire danger this year may be the highest we have seen in many years,” said Peter Van Fleet, Glen Ellen Fire Protection District chief.

The recent drought in California is having a local impact on the Glen Ellen and Sonoma Valley area, said Tjiska Van Wyk, the park’s executive director. An extremely dry 2103 lead to the development of dry underbrush, making the park “a virtual tinderbox. As a result, the park and the surrounding area are more vulnerable to fire as we approach wildfire season.”

The park is at the end of the two-lane London Ranch. A National Historic Landmark, the site includes a museum, London’s cottage and farm, and his gravesite.

A fire racing along the mountainside would threaten the historic structures, along with the grassy meadows and mixed forests that comprise the 1,400-acre park.

“We are collaborating with our local fire departments on an action plan to make our neighborhoods safe,” said Chuck Levine, board president of the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, which manages the park. “But the work we need to do is extensive so we are reaching out to the entire community for support.”

The action plan developed by Jack London State Historic Park in collaboration with local fire departments and Cal Fire (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) focuses on the creation of “Defensible Space”— an important method in fire risk reduction that involves thinning and pruning vegetation to slow the spread of a potential fire and allow firefighters to better fight a blaze.

Immediate steps for this plan include clearing and improving fire roads within the park so they are accessible for firefighters. Also cleared of potential fire fuel will space along the park trails and around historic structures. Defensible space wil also be created around all power lines in the park to reduce the risk of future fires

The community’s support in reducing the immediate fire risks at the park will be followed up with an ongoing forest management plan conducted by volunteers from organizations like the Sonoma Trails Council, Park Champions, Social Advocates for Youth, Rotary Club, and Boy Scouts.

“This is a long-term solution for safeguarding our neighborhood community from the devastating effects of a wildfire,” Van Wyk said.

Find out more about the “Join the Force” campaign at

Checklist: Making your home fire safe

• Post your house address so it is easily visible from the street, especially at night.
• Identify at least two exit routes from your neighborhood.
• Clear flammable vegetation at least 10 feet from roads and five feet from driveways.
• Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures and remove vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles.
• Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves and other debris from your yard.
• Create a Defensible Space of 100 feet around your home – it’s the law.
• Create a “lean, clean and green zone” by removing all flammable vegetation within 30 feet immediately surrounding your home.
• Then create a “reduced fuel zone” in the remaining 70 feet or to your property line with, A) horizontal and vertical spacing between plants. Or, B) Large trees as long as all of the plants beneath them are removed.
• Remove lower tree branches at least six feet from the ground
• Landscape with fire resistant plants.
• Maintain all plants with regular water, and keep dead braches, leaves and needles removed.
• When clearing vegetation, use care when operating equipment such as lawnmowers. One small spark may start a fire; a string trimmer is much safer.

— California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

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