November 6, 2020 – On the edge of Western Nevada County lies a community who is taking fire mitigation into their own hands. The Big Oak Street Tenders, Inc., located in Smartsville, formed two years ago to collectively maintain 22 miles of overgrown private roadway. Motivated by a desire to make evacuation routes safer for residents and accessible to fire personnel, they set out to implement 10 feet of horizontal and 15 feet of vertical clearance along the shoulders of their roadways.

Darcy Road before and after

Big Oak Street Tenders, Inc. President, Donna Fuller, is no stranger to fire mitigation and public education. In fact, Mrs. Fuller previously worked for the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County where she trained and supervised AmeriCorps members who helped older adults and people with disabilities achieve defensible space around their homes. Last year, she came across a State Fire Assistance grant aimed at supporting fire risk reduction activities for residents in at-risk communities and did not hesitate to gather local community support to apply.

When the Big Oak St. Tenders, Inc. recently received word that their grant to treat 11 miles, 22 acres, of hazardous vegetation along their roads, residents were overjoyed. Homeowner Heather Certik says, “Like many of my neighbors, after the Paradise fire two years ago I received a non-renewal notice from my insurance company. The reason given was the narrow roads with excess brush on both sides. It was clearly a hindrance to emergency vehicles coming in and evacuees rushing to exit. My neighbors and I are very grateful for Big Oak Street Tenders and all we have achieved.”

Melody before and after

Grant guidelines require a mandatory cost share of 100%. The Big Oak Street Tenders, Inc. are matching every dollar received with sweat equity by volunteering to treat five acres of roadway and conducting property clearance around homes. The treated roadway will serve as a living showcase of proper fuels management and will help homeowners organize around Firewise concepts and home hardening efforts.

Mrs. Fuller states, “This funding has been a huge launchpad for the Big Oak Street Tenders, Inc. Our residents were very concerned about the fire danger and an inability for vehicles to pass others due to overgrown vegetation. This roadside clearance has encouraged several property owners to take fire danger more seriously and they have cleared their entire parcels. I’m hopeful this is just the beginning and more residents will do the same.”

About the SFA Program

California Fire Safe Council (CFSC) hosts an annual competitive application process for State Fire Assistance (SFA) wildfire prevention grants. Funding is provided through a master grant to CFSC by the U.S. Forest Service. The CFSC administers the Grants Clearinghouse program and issues subawards to successful applicants to support fire risk reduction activities by landowners in at‐risk communities to restore and maintain resilient landscapes and create fire adapted communities. Funds are utilized for hazard mitigation competitive grants in the following categories:

  • Hazardous fuels reduction and maintenance projects on non‐federal land
  • Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) and other community hazard mitigation and planning
  • Prevention and mitigation education and outreach opportunities for landowners and residents in at‐risk communities