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Napa County Wins $37.5 Million Wildfire Prevention Grant

Hi DMFSC Neighbors and Friends,

Calistoga Fire Safe Council's Co-leader and NCFF's Vice Chair, Piper Cole, has shared some exciting news with us: Napa County has just been awarded $37.5M in a grant from FEMA for Wildfire Preparedness!

Here is the text of the article in the Register:

"Napa County wins $37.5 million wildfire prevention grant"

Barry Eberling

Sep 1, 2023

Napa County has hit a fire protection jackpot of sorts — it will receive a $37.5 million

federal grant for fuel reduction and other wildfire prevention efforts.

“This grant will empower us to take significant strides in safeguarding our community for future generations, especially in the face of impending wildfires,” Board of Supervisors Chair Belia Ramos said in a news release.

Christopher Thompson of the Napa Communities Firewise Foundation on Thursday called the grant “critical” to further fuel reduction efforts. Money is coming from the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The county must provide an additional 25% match, or more than $9 million. Half the grant goes to reducing hazardous fuels. Thompson mentioned projects in such places as lower Redwood Road near the city of Napa and the Deer Park, Coombsville, Berryessa Highlands, Calistoga, American Canyon and Lake Hennessey areas.

The other half of the grant can reimburse property owners for defensible space and ignition resistant construction projects in areas with a high wildfire threat. This will be a cost-share program.

But, Thompson said, the grant doesn’t end the need for dependable, local wildfire prevention funding. While grants are available to create fuel reduction projects, they don’t pay to maintain them as vegetation grows back. “We’re now going to roll out more fuel mitigation projects that we will have to maintain,” Thompson said. “And if we don’t finance that maintenance, it’s like the work was never done in the first place. It all grows back and we’re back to square one.” Napa County in 2017 was hit by the Tubbs, Atlas and Nuns wildfires. It was hit in 2020 by the Glass and LNU Lightning Complex fires. Hundreds of homes, wineries and businesses were destroyed. County officials estimate about 60% of the county’s land burned. In response, the nonprofit Napa Firewise worked with Napa County Fire to create a five-year, $42 million Napa County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The Board of Supervisors adopted the plan in 2021. This plan called for creating specific shaded fuel breaks and clearing vegetation along evacuation route roads in areas throughout the county.

Napa Firewise is working on an expanded plan. Thompson said the five-year plan didn’t include every project, but rather the projects most critical at the time. The county took some heat in July 2021, when Sonoma County secured a $37 million grant from the same federal program and Napa County received nothing. Some in the wine industry questioned why Napa County hadn’t even applied. This time, Napa County both applied and is a grant winner. “I think it's definitely going to be helpful and it’s exciting Napa is pursuing funding opportunities such as these,” said Michelle Benvenuto, executive director of Winegrowers of Napa County. “We look forward to continue to collaborate with the county on wildfire efforts.”

Napa County CEO Ryan Alsop commented on the grant in the county statement. “This grant amplifies our commitment to resilience — and will have a tremendous impact on our ability to drive and uphold investment in wildfire resiliency projects that bring value to our region in the years ahead,” Alsop said.


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