Sonoma County receives first $5.7 million of FEMA grant to reduce risk of wildfire

Posted on November 30, 2022 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma County received an award of $5.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the California Office of Emergency Services for Wildfire Resilient Sonoma County, a wildfire risk reduction program. The $37 million Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant announced for the County of Sonoma represents one of only two such wildfire resiliency grant projects funded nationally to date.

The award is the first allocation of funding for Wildfire Resilient Sonoma County program, which was announced by President Joe Biden in June 2021. In announcing the funding to support ongoing fire mitigations efforts, Biden said, “Sonoma knows all too well the devastation wrought by fire.”

The grant requires a local match of 25 percent, or approximately $12 million, for a total of $48.8 million. Sonoma County plans to finance the local portion using PG&E settlement funds. The award encompasses planning and environmental review phases of the effort.

“We are at a turning point as a community,” said Supervisor James Gore, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We have invested historic funds locally toward fire resilience, and these federal matching dollars will help us dig in deeper. After years of dedicated effort, we as a community are achieving progress.”

The program will address structure hardening, defensible space, and vegetation management in three project communities in Sonoma County.

County officials intend to use the grant funding to develop an integrated, innovative cross-agency “systems” methodology designed to work simultaneously at the large wildland scale and the neighborhood scale which can then be replicated across other communities. The Wildfire Resilient Sonoma County project funds work within specific project areas in the Larkfield-Wikiup/Mark West Creek, Guernewood-Guerneville-Rio Nido, and Penngrove/Sonoma Mountain areas.

Sonoma County’s Inside-Out, Outside-In, or House-Out, Fire-In approach includes structural hardening and defensible space to homes and structures, while applying environmentally appropriate hazardous fuel reduction techniques in the surrounding landscape to create whole-community wildfire resilience and to reduce the risk of catastrophic losses.

From 2017 through 2020, fires burned more than 300,000 acres in Sonoma County, destroyed nearly 7,000 structures and killed 24 people.

For more information about the Wildfire Resilient Sonoma County program or the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities award, please visit the project page.

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA