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CWPP

Updated: June 27, 2017

Work on the San Marcos Pass Mountainous Area Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) continues. Mountain residents are represented on the Development Team including Rocky Siegel (WRA-SMPVFD) for areas west of Highway 154, Kevin Buckley (PCVFD) for areas east of Highway 154 and Mark Linnane for Paradise Canyon. Phil Seymour, a long time Painted Cave mountain resident as the representative for the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council and the WRA.

The initial CWPP work consists of assembling information on at risk structures and resources in our communities as well as developing proposals for community and roadside fuel modification projects to improve defensibility of our communities and protect evacuation routes. Area representatives have been conducting outreach with community residents to obtain suggestions for environmentally sound fuel modification projects and maintenance program.

The WRA will be coordinating information gathering and developing tentative fuel modifications plans for all areas on and west of Highway 154. Lee Chiacos (Trout Club), Craig Jennings (West Camino Cielo) and Jason Lekas (Rosario Park) have volunteered to work with Rocky Siegel to conduct community outreach for the development of local community area plans.

For areas east of Highway 154, Development Team representatives have been contacting affected property owners directly and conducting community meetings on proposed fuel modification plans. For further information, watch for notices on community bulletin boards and your mailbox. You can also email PCVFD Chief Kevin Buckley at buckleydesign@gmail.com.

If you are interested in working on the CWPP Development Team or have questions, please contact the WRA by email at community@wildlandresidents.org or call the office at 964-7194. You can also email the Development Team through the County Fire Department at CWPP@countyofsb.org. Additionally, you can monitor this website and NextDoor for future notices and document postings.


Los Padres_climate change summary_Final_March 2016
EGV_SMP_Relative Hazard Rating Fuels
Development Team Memo – Timing of CEQA Compliance for CWPP

SMP CWPP Fuel Modification Guidelines – Version 2

EGV SMP Damage Run Potential San Marcos Pass

Community Wildfire Protection Plan Development Process

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DRAFT- Development Team Mtg Agenda_MAY15_2017

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Draft Development Team Mtg Agenda_03062017

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John Smith, USFS Santa Barbara Mountain Communities Defense Zone Memo, 21 March 2017

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San Marcos Pass Community Wildfire Protection Plan
by: Philip Seymour, Esq. 

Counsel to the WRA 

Early last year a small group of mountain residents organized by the Wildland Residents Association and Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department began working on preparation of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (“CWPP”). After meeting with wildfire experts from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service, and joining an environmental representative from the Urban Creeks Council, mountain representatives began meeting with a County “Working Group” assigned by County government to collaborate in preparing the CWPP. Working with County government can be challenging at times. However, after overcoming some major obstacles, the CWPP process will be going fully public on January 26, 2017. Below is a summary of relevant information about the CWPP process for mountain residents and others interested in participating in the process.

Community Wildfire Protection Plan Development Process for Santa Barbara County
Community Wildfire Protection Plan for San Marcos Pass/Eastern Goleta Valley Mountainous Areas

January 26 Public Workshop Details

The first Public Workshop on the “San Marcos Pass/Eastern Goleta Valley Mountainous Areas CWPP” (name subject to reconsideration) was held Thursday, January 26, 2017. The workshop included a short introduction to the CWPP process from County Fire and County Planning representatives and the consultant team engaged to help prepare the CWPP with public comments following. Individuals and organizations wanting to participate in the process were invited to submit their names for notices and, if interested, for possible inclusion on the Development Team that will work with the consultants to prepare the CWPP. The them includes Wildland Residents Association and Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department representing mountain residents.

What is a CWPP?

A CWPP is essentially a set of recommendations, with supporting data, for improving fire safety and survivability in areas threatened by wildfires. Key steps in preparing a CWPP are (1) assessing the severity of risks to life, property and other resources in the CWPP area; (2) preparing recommendations for fuel breaks or other modification projects to reduce fire hazards; (3) preparing recommendations for other measures (e.g. structure hardening, evacuation planning, etc.) to reduce risks of loss. To be of maximum benefit (e.g. qualifying the area for future state or federal project funding), the CWPP must be approved by three parties: (1) local government (here, our County Board of Supervisors); (2) local fire department (County Fire); and (3) the State Forester (CalFire).

A CWPP is a critical first step in improving fire safety in our area. However, it should be understood that the CWPP itself is not an “action document” that will lead to immediate results in terms of fuel break clearances or other direct actions. Rather, it will be up to our local fire agencies (County Fire, San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department, Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department), residents associations, and/or individual landowners to utilize the recommendations and data in the CWPP to plan and carry out individual future fuel modification or other projects when funding or other resources allow. Individual future projects will be subject to environmental review and any permitting requirements that apply. However, as discussed further below, an approved CWPP may be instrumental in obtaining future funds and regulatory support for necessary fire safety projects, and for streamlining future project planning.

A CWPP also is not a regulatory document. While it may recommend various measures or programs to improve individual and community fire safety, it does not impose any new legal requirements or restrictions on landowners. Existing regulations adopted at the state or local level will remain in effect, but are not affected by the CWPP.

Area Affected:

The current proposed boundaries of the CWPP run from Cathedral Oaks road in the south to Paradise Canyon in the north; the Windy Gap fuel break and Arroyo Burro fire road on the east; and through U.S. Forest Service lands up to West Camino Cielo and then down to Paradise Road on the west. These boundaries include the residential communities north of Cathedral Oaks that were hit hard during the Painted Cave Fire; Twin Ridge and Old San Marcos Road residential areas; and the Trout Club, Painted Cave, West Camino Cielo, Kinevan Ranch, Rosario Park; San Marcos Pass, East Camino Cielo and Paradise Road communities in the mountains.

Much if the area included in the CWPP boundaries is Forest Service land. While the Forest Service is technically not a party to the CWPP and has its own plans for fuel break projects in the area, Forest Service representatives will be included in the CWPP process, towards the end of avoiding duplication of effort and coordinating federal and local plans to the maximum extent possible.

What Are the Benefits of a CWPP:

The CWPP will provide a number of benefits. The two most important are (1) coordinated fire planning for the mountain and foothill communities; (2) qualifying future projects for major state, federal and private grant funding.

Coordinating Fire Planning With Environmental Protection:

The CWPP, through the use of state-of-the art fire modelling, will identify areas where fuel breaks or other fuel modification projects would be most useful to protect our communities and other resources, and provide maximum safety to firefighters. The CWPP will also identify areas that must be avoided or receive special treatment due to environmental constraints, landowner considerations or other factors. Reconciling the twin goals of improving fire protection while minimizing environmental costs will be an important function of the CWPP. The CWPP will also recommend best practices for fuel modification and maintenance projects that provide reasonable fire protection while avoiding or minimizing environmental effects. Existing fuel breaks and roadside clearances will be utilized and improved instead of creating new fuel breaks where possible. The CWPP will not propose old-style fuel breaks with massive unnecessary clearing, but will recommend measures tailored to retain habitat and aesthetic values to the extent possible while providing safe working space for firefighters. Once approved, the CWPP will allow our local fire agencies (County Fire, USFS, San Marcos Pass and Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Departments) and interested landowners to prioritize and co-ordinate individual future projects to achieve the best protection possible with available funds, and with less future bureaucratic delays or conflicts over environmental issues.

State, Federal and Grant Funding:

The biggest obstacle to creating and maintaining community fuel breaks and other improvement projects is funding. An approved CWPP is now a pre-requisite for almost all state and federal funding and much private grant funding for fuel modification or other wildfire safety projects. Importantly, the CWPP will enable us to see that revenues from the annual state fire fees that mountain and foothill area residents now pay will be returned for hands-on projects in our area. The funds should also enable County Fire to maintain and expand its existing programs for roadside fuel clearance and other projects.

How Does the Process Work?

Under both national and local guidelines, the CWPP process is supposed to be a collaborative process involving community organizations, residents and landowners in fire-threatened areas; public interest organizations; local, state and federal fire experts; local government representatives; and interested state and federal resource agencies. The WRA has worked hard to ensure that mountain residents, environmental groups and all responsible agencies will be included in the process.

Role of the CWPP “Development Team:

In 2011 Santa Barbara County adopted specific procedures for working with local citizens to prepare a CWPP. These procedures call for creation of a Development Team composed of interested citizens, agency representatives and experts to guide the process. This Development Team in turn works with a “Working Group” of County representatives (County Fire, County Planning & Development and County Executive Office) and other interested parties to ensure full public participation and accountability. In our case, the Development Team will work closely with an experienced professional consultant team who will do technical work, draft appropriate sections of the CWPP and make recommendations. The Development Team will also be responsible for helping to gather information and for consulting with local area residents, governmental representatives, environmental experts and others to ensure that the CWPP is complete, accurate and responsive to local conditions and priorities. We expect that the most important task of the Development Team will be to balance environmental considerations with technical recommendations for fire safety.

As of this writing, the Development Team is expected to include representatives of the following organizations or individuals: Geo Elements (consulting firm); Wildland Residents Association; Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department; FireSafe Council; Urban Creeks Council; Los Padres Forest Watch; Santa Barbara County Fire Department; Los Padres National Forest; Paradise Canyon area representative (to be chosen) and San Marcos Foothills Area representative (to be chosen). The Development Team may be expanded to include additional representatives on the advice of the consultant team.

Draft and Final Proposed CWPP’s:

Based on the work of the Development Team and consultants, a draft CWPP will be completed and circulated for review by all members of the public and by interested public agencies. Following receipt of input from all sources, the Development Team and consultants will complete a final proposed CWPP. We anticipate there will be at least two more public hearings or workshops before the CWPP is completed. The final proposed CWPP will then be presented to the County Fire Chief, County Board of Supervisors and CalFire for approval.

The CWPP Consultants:

Most of the technical work and much of the hands-on drafting of the CWPP will be done by Geo Elements, LLC, a consulting team currently based in Colorado. Geo Elements was engaged to do this work by County Fire after a competitive bidding process last year. Geo Elements is without question the leading firm in the field for preparing CWPPs, and has previously prepared CWPPs for the City of Goleta and Montecito Fire Department as well as many other CWPPs nationally. Geo Elements’ key personnel have extensive hands-on wildland firefighting and fire management experience, including extensive past service here in our own Los Padres National Forest. Geo Elements will be utilizing current state-of-the-art fire behavior modelling for technical work on the CWPP, and is highly conversant with fire safety and fire ecology issues that will be involved in the CWPP. Conversations between Geo Elements and WRA representatives have convinced us that Geo Elements will also be available and responsive to local input from our mountain and foothill communities.

How is the CWPP Process Funded?

The primary costs of the CWPP will be contract costs for the consultant team, which are expected to be approximately $93,000. County Fire is currently under contract to pay these costs; the funds will come from state funds that County Fire receives for local fire agency use. However, the Santa Barbara County FireSafe Council has applied for and received a state grant to pay ½ the costs of the CWPP, i.e. $46,000. The FireSafe Council has also applied for another federal grant which would pay the remaining costs of the CWPP consulting contract, or pay for additional work.