Midpen prepares for fire season in many ways, including maintaining fire breaks and roads, outfitting ranger trucks with water pumpers, and using grazing and other tools to manage vegetation. Employees participate in annual fire training so they are ready to act as first responders and resource advisors to wildfires, and assist local fire departments as needed.
Please remember that fires and smoking are always prohibited in Midpen preserves and is strictly enforced. And do not park on dry grass. Thank you for helping us stay fire safe!
Visit CAL FIRE’s Ready for Wildfire website to learn how to prepare for, prevent, and take action during a wildfire.
Fire, in many instances, is essential for a healthy natural environment. The regular occurrence of fire enables many plant communities to evolve and acquire unique adaptations to withstand and regenerate after a fire. Manzanitas and many other plants are able to resprout after a fire, knobcone pine cones release their seeds in response to the heat, and some plant seeds germinate only following exposure to chemicals in fire smoke. All of these and many other important natural functions require some regular occurrence of fire.
Wildfires across the state have become more severe and highly destructive due to dryer conditions coupled with fire suppression practices that have left greater amounts of ignitable fuel load on the landscape. To help protect our communities and natural systems from catastrophic wildfires and restore fire-adaptive native plants, Midpen is developing a new program aimed at adding carefully managed prescribed fire to our land management toolbox. The program will take about three years to develop with many opportunities for public input along the way, and an environmental review process required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
Public meetings will begin soon. Sign-up to stay informed and receive updates:
In 2012, Midpen developed a Wildland Fire Management Policy as one of a series of Resource Management Policies (RMP). The goal of the policy is to: Manage District land to reduce the severity of wildland fire and to reduce the impact of fire suppression activities within District Preserves and adjacent residential areas; manage habitats to support fire as a natural occurrence on the landscape; and promote District and regional fire management objectives.
A large portion of Midpen’s maintenance program focuses on fire prevention, including:
- clearing vegetation to provide fire clearance around over 50 structures every year;
- clearing and maintaining over 200 miles of fire roads in open space preserves;
- maintaining water sources that are available for fire suppression;
- installing disc lines in grasslands by turning up soil to provide a fuel free barrier;
- clearing and maintaining fuel breaks;
- ensuring all employee and contractor work is controlled to avoid potential fires; and
- leasing over 10,000 acres of grazing lands that provide for landscape level fuel reduction and grassland management.
Midpen staff work cooperatively with neighbors and fire agencies on fire prevention and preparedness projects, including identifying neighbor evacuation routes, developing fire response plans, and removing eucalyptus tree and other highly combustible fuels. Staff also participate in county and regional fire safe councils to coordinate with other agencies and the public on fire prevention and safety measures. Every year ranger staff post all preserves with no fire and no smoking signs, educate visitors about the importance of fire safety, and enforce restrictions on smoking and fires.
While Midpen trains staff in wildland fire response and equips staff with limited firefighting equipment, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) maintains jurisdiction in our region to lead and manage fire suppression activities. CAL FIRE is an agency that possesses the staffing, training, experience, and equipment necessary to suppress wildland fire where it occurs. CAL FIRE’s role is supplemented by local fire departments (such as Palo Alto, Woodside Fire Protection District, and Santa Clara County) as well as by statewide mutual aid agreements for large wildland fire events.
Midpen works closely with CAL FIRE to provide land management expertise to help address public safety and protect the natural resources. This role also extends to vegetation management to reduce the severity of wildland fire, damage to resource values, and risks to public safety.
One of the primary determinants of a home's ability to survive a wildfire is the quality of the surrounding "defensible space." Defensible space is the area around a structure where vegetation is treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire towards the structure. This space provides room for firefighters to work safely and protect homes. Midpen implements defensible space around its own structures and works with its tenants to create such space. In June 2009, Midpen launched a free Defensible Space Permit Program that allows neighbors whose homes are located within 100 feet of Midpen boundaries to increase their fire safety by reducing vegetation on adjacent Midpen lands once they have treated their own land.