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Fire district awarded grant for wildfire prevention work

 

The Woodside Fire Protection District has taken wildfire prevention into its own hands by obtaining a $100,000 grant to remove underbrush and invasive plants in the 626-acre Teague Hill Open Space Preserve in Woodside.

Teague Hill is directly south of Kings Mountain Road and west of the center of Woodside and is managed by the Midpenisula Regional Open Space District.

The work will start in the next few weeks and go on for about a year and a half, according to Woodside Fire Marshal Denise Enea.

The fire district is hoping that the Teague Hill work will serve as a kind of test project for the open space district as it works with a consultant to develop a plan to reduce fire risk across the 63,000 acres of wildland that it manages, Enea said.

"Forest health hasn't been one of (the open space district's) priorities," Enea said. "They are very cautious, but they now understand that the community is concerned about wildfires."

The fire district chose Teague Hill for the project over other open space areas in its territory because of its proximity to homes and the fact that a water tank that supplies the town of Woodside is located within the preserve, Enea said.

"Teague Hill runs right down to the homes on Roan Place and Pinto Way in the western hills," she said. "There are huge piles of downed material, and taking care of that will help."

The fire district applied for and received the grant from the California Department of Forestry and its "Fire Protection Fire Prevention" grant program, Enea said.

"The project seemed like a good fit for residents," Enea said. "The work was well overdue."

The open space district is stepping up its efforts to reduce wildfire risk in its holdings by "undertaking a project to look at fire risk in our entire district preserves," said Assistant General Manager Brian Malone.

"Wildfires have become bigger and more deadly, and we want to join with the fire districts in making our area safe," he said.

Malone said that each of the district's preserves is different and may require a different approach to wildfire risk reduction.

For example, the 1,414-acre Windy Hill Preserve in Portola Valley is mostly low-lying chaparral and grassland that needs mowing, while the 167-acre Thornewood Preserve in Woodside is primarily forested and needs tree and underbrush removal.

Woodside Mayor Pro Tem Ned Fluet took a tour of Thornewood with open space district staff members and wrote in an email that he thinks the district is "taking its responsibilities seriously and making fire safety a top priority."

"They showed me the work they have done in clearing and maintaining exit and escape routes from the preserve," said Fluet, who represents District 7 where Thornewood is located. "I am eager to see the results from their consultant because I think reducing fuel load is vitally important."

Fluet pointed out the need for residents to clear the areas around their homes of debris and other material that could catch fire. Woodside has a subsidy program for homeowners that can pay for part of the cost of the work, he added.

Enea said that the open space district has also done some work at Windy Hill at the fire district's request.

Windy Hill was targeted to create an "extra buffer" around the Sequoias retirement community and to help preserve Alpine Road as a wildfire evacuation route, she said.

"There's a lot of education to be done with homes not ready for a fire," Enea said. "It's hard to transform overnight into a fire-resilient community, but everyone is going in the right direction."

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