Healdsburg given $414,000 grant to curb preserve fires

The California Coastal Conservancy approved a $414,000 grant Monday that will go toward vegetation management in three preserves near Healdsburg.

Funding, which comes from a $12 million Forest Health and Wildfire Resiliency Grant, will benefit Healdsburg Ridge, Callahan and Fitch Mountain open space preserves.

Each is considered a “High Fire Hazard Severity Zone” and “the proposed project will reduce fire risk and associated risks to public safety, critical city infrastructure, forest health, water quality, and natural resources from potential catastrophic wildfires on these wildland/urban interfaces,” according to the Coastal Conservancy.

Board members unanimously voted 6-0 Monday to approve the grant following little discussion.

Also adding to the importance of these sites receiving these funds is the ongoing drought in California, which exponentially increases the chances of a wildfire occurring.

Conditions in Sonoma County fall into the “exceptional drought” category, according to the state drought monitor. Santa Rosa, for example, has received 8.4 inches of rain since Jan. 1 – down 12.97 inches from the normal 21.37 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Healdsburg firefighters are expected to begin vegetation removal later this month. The project will last through February 2024 and encompass hundreds of acres of vegetation from the three specified sites.

According to the Coastal Conservancy, Healdsburg Ridge Preserve is 152 acres; Fitch Mountain Preserve is 173 acres and Callahan is 107 acres.

As work takes place on the three preserves, a similar effort will continue on the nearby Fitch Mountain after Coastal Conservancy board members voted last month to approve a $505,000 grant for vegetation removal on the 900-foot mountain, which is the site of about 350 homes.

The Forest Health and Wildfire Resiliency Grant covers projects across California. Several others were also approved Monday, including a handful across Sonoma County for slightly smaller amounts of money.

They included a $115,000 allotment for the Cazadero Community Services District to buy a brush chipper, bucket loader and supplies for vegetation management; and $150,000 for the Sonoma Land Trust to conduct wildfire risk reduction on the Little Black Mountain Preserve, Laufenberg Ranch, Pole Mountain Preserve and Live Oaks Ranch.

Lisa Ames, conservancy project manager for the North Coast region, said the $12 million grant has been distributed and will not be part of fire mitigation efforts discussed in the future.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at On Twitter @colin_atagi.

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