NFPA's Firewise Communities program is so pleased to confer Firewise Communities/USA recognition on Redwood Valley Rancheria, the first tribal community in California to earn this honor.
The small community is located in Northern California, and is the home of the the Redwood Valley Rancheria band of Pomo Indians. The Redwood Valley Rancheria is comprised of two separate sections of land in Redwood Valley, Mendocino County, CA. The old Rancheria consists of about 8 acres in separate parcels located in the middle of Redwood Valley (elevation 800 ft.) adjacent to the Russian River. This area consists of 1-5 acre residential parcels and older to new houses. The main Rancheria is located two miles east at the end of Road I. This property consists of 10 acres flat to rolling hills where the 31-house tribal community is located, and 160 acres of steep oak woodland with some chaparral and grass to the east. The elevation rises from 900 feet to 2300 feet in the new Rancheria.
Both properties are vulnerable to wildfire: the old Rancheria mainly from human activities and the new Rancheria from wildfires mainly caused by lightning strikes spreading from the community up the ridge or from adjacent land across or down from the steep slopes.
NFPA had the opportunity to reach out to tribal members from California and the Southwest Region at the Bureau of Indian Affairs main office at a workshop early in 2013 that was organized by Soledad Holguin and Jim Nanamkin. I participated at Soledad's and Jim's invitation along with NFPA's Hylton Haynes. We shared information about Firewise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities at the workshop. Zhao Qui, Tribal Administrator for Redwood Valley Rancheria, attended and followed up with me for assistance. On my visit to the Tribe in June 2013, I learned about the fuels project the community was working on as well as fielded questions about the Firewise Community Assessment process. Along with all the members of the local Fire Prevention team, we completed a morning tour of the community, took pictures to complete a final assessment report and looked at home ignition zones along with their crew boss, a retired US Forest Service Fire Officer. Zhao Qui and I later completed the tour of the community and observed the community’s current fuels mitigation project to provide 100 feet defensible space. Included in the fuels project area was the tribal grass garden where they grow grasses needed for basket weaving.
The tribe, with the assistance of their administrator Ms. Qui, successfully completed their Firewise Community Application. They are now the first tribal Firewise Community in California! They are working hard to protect the lives of community members, firefighters, their homes and heritage. For more information about how your community can become safer in the event of a wildfire go to the Firewise website or contact your state liaison or regional advisor for assistance.