The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation, Land Trust of Napa County and the Angwin Fire Safe Council are collaborating to develop a mile-long Linda Falls fuel break, in partnership with CAL FIRE and Napa County Fire, aimed at protecting the community of Angwin.     

“Angwin is one of the few places across Napa that has not burned in the last few years and therefore, wildfire risk mitigation there is seen as a county-wide priority,” said JC Greenberg, of CAL FIRE and Napa County Fire, who helped plan the project. “It is encouraging to see this partnership develop and lead to real on-the-ground fuels reduction.”  

The fuel break project will form a semicircle, connecting at both ends to Howell Mountain Road. To be successful, the fuel break must cross land owned by 12 different landowners. The partnership has been working to connect with these landowners, and the response has been very positive.  

“We have been working together to contact the landowners, describe the project and its benefits, and ask for their participation,” said Margo Kennedy, who along with Paula Peterson is Co-Chair of the Angwin Fire Safe Council. “So far, we have had great enthusiasm from property owners. With their participation this fuel break will help increase defensible space for this neighborhood and the community of Angwin.”    

The largest landowner involved is the Land Trust, with its 177-acre Linda Falls Preserve. The fuel break pathway crosses 20 acres of the preserve. Because of the urgency of moving forward with the project before the next red flag days return, the Land Trust was happy to take the lead in piloting the project on their land. The fuel break across the entire stretch through the Land Trust’s property was recently completed with funding from Napa Firewise and other private donors.  

“We’re excited to work with this partnership and to help initiate this project on our property,” said Doug Parker, CEO of the Land Trust.  “The contractor did a very good job and that allowed the other landowners to see exactly what the results would be.”   

The project is a 200-foot-wide shaded fuel break in a forested area dominated by Douglas fir. “A shaded fuel break is a wildfire mitigation method used to reduce the amount of vegetation in a forested area in order to reduce fire severity, slow its spread and assist with firefighting efforts,” said Peter Lecourt, PUC Forest Manager, and board member of both Napa Firewise and the Angwin Fire Safe Council. “By thinning dense stands of small diameter trees that have resulted from decades of fire suppression, and pruning larger trees, the fuel break reduces a heavy buildup of ladder fuels that can lead to a crown fire.”  

“The project helps reduce the chances of a high intensity crown fire that could threaten homes and neighborhoods nearby,” said Mike Palladini, Stewardship Program Manager at the Land Trust. “And it is also aimed at improving forest health and resilience by reducing resource competition for the remaining trees, promoting a broader array of tree species including oaks, and decreasing the chances that the largest and oldest trees will be killed during a wildfire event.”   

Once all the rest of the landowners have formally agreed, the contractor will return in April to complete the project.  

“I want to say a special thanks to the donors who helped make this project possible, from Napa Firewise, to individuals who live in the area,” said Parker.  “With their help and the landowners’ participation, we expect to get this project done this spring, long before the threat of wildfire returns.” 

A version of this story appeared in the Napa Valley Register on April 1, 2021.

View of the shaded fuel break on the Land Trust’s Linda Falls Preserve after work was completed. Photo by Mike Palladini – Land Trust of Napa County.

Crew working in dense understory on the Land Trust’s Linda Falls Preserve to create a shaded fuel break. Photo by Mike Palladini – Land Trust of Napa County.