Partner Spotlight: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Who is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection?

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, often referred to as CAL FIRE, maintains the mission “to serve and safeguard the people and protect the property and resources of California.”  Their 2019 Strategic Plan provides an excellent overview of the breadth and depth of their work:

“The Department responds to nearly 6,000 wildland fires that burn on average over 260,000 acres each year. Through cooperative agreements, mutual aid, and the State’s emergency plan, CAL FIRE personnel respond to more than 450,000 incidents annually, including structure fires, automobile accidents, medical emergencies, swift water rescues, civil disturbances, search and rescues, hazardous material spills, train wrecks, floods, and earthquakes.

Through its foresters and other natural resource professionals, CAL FIRE is responsible for the management and protection of California’s natural resources. Of the 85 million acres classified as wildlands in the State, 33 million acres are forest lands, with 38 percent privately-owned and 62 percent tribal or government-owned. The State’s wildlands also provide critical watershed, wildlife habitat, and recreation resources in addition to valuable commercial timberland. CAL FIRE’s Resource Management.”

CAL FIRE and Resource Conservation Districts

CAL FIRE and Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) collaborate with the common goals of improving forest health and reducing the risk of wildfire. RCDs work with CAL FIRE’s local unit foresters for locally based projects and collaborations. They are often seen side-by-side at workshops for community and homeowner education. CAL FIRE is an important source of funding for RCDs to implement projects related to hazardous fuels reduction, reforestation, fuel breaks, and training and education.

CAL FIRE funds RCD work through direct contracting and through several California Climate Investments funded grants. CAL FIRE’s Forest Health Grant Program, Urban & Community Forestry Grant Program, and Fire Prevention Grant Program all fund RCD projects for forest health and community fire preparedness. Follow this link to read about a Feather River RCD project funded by a CAL FIRE Fire Prevention Grant.

The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) frequently coordinates with CAL FIRE’s Director, Thom Porter, to advocate at a statewide level for increased funding and for better policy around forest health and wildfire protection. They also meet to discuss better ways of coordinating statewide work.

RCDs, CARCD, and CAL FIRE work collaboratively to maintain healthy forests and protect communities from wildfire. By working at state and local scales, our partnership is able to bring scientifically sound and locally appropriate projects, services, and education to California’s communities.