San Luis Obispo County has been awarded $3.9 million in state cap-and-trade funds to prevent fires and improve forest health through projects across the county.
The grant will be administered by the county Fire Safe Council, an all-volunteer board of 27 members representing various community organizations — like Cal Fire, Cal Poly, the Cattlemen’s Association, EcoSLO and SLO County Planning — dedicated to creating a fire-safe community.
These are the largest grants the council has ever received, according to council manager Dan Turner, and they come at a crucial time as California wildfires continue to grow in intensity each year.
“Look around at what’s going on across the state. We have huge issues, we’re spending more than ever on prevention, and the damage is greater than ever,” Turner said.
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While some prevention and fire-safe work is already underway and ongoing countywide, these funds will be used beginning next year.
Here’s how it will be spent:
$1.8 million for Monterey Pine forest management.
The Monterey Pine forest in Cambria and San Simeon area is in severe stress, with about 70 percent dead from drought and bark beetles. The funds will allow work crews to continue a project already underway to build fuel breaks, remove some dead trees and leave standing, live, healthy trees in place.
“We’ve been working up there for a few years to reduce fire hazard and prepare the public,” Turner said. “4,500 people live in the forest up there that are at risk.”
$775,000 for fire safe projects near Lake Nacimiento.
Funds will be spent to create and promote defensible space all around the lake with fire-safe projects at Oak Shores, Heritage Ranch and the south shore communities of Rancho del Lago, Cal Shasta, Tri-counties, Running Deer and South Shore Village.
“There’s one road in that area that serves 400 houses. A lot of work is to be focused on that road to make it safer, so people can evacuate and firefighters can get in,” Turner said.
$505,000 to improve fire safety east of Santa Margarita.
Fire safety work like fuel breaks and roadside clearance for safer evacuations will be done in the Parkhill-Pozo area, targeting the area that has historically had the most serious fires in the county.
$883,000 for countywide projects.
The remainder of funds will be spent to perform fire safety projects like hazardous tree removal, curbside chipping and defensible space work in Los Osos, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach Morro Bay, Ranchita Estates and San Luis Obispo.