Inmate fire crews from Lake County have completed a weeklong fire safety effort to remove brush along three-quarters of a mile of roadways in Deer Park.
Inmate crews from Konocti fire camp in Lower Lake spent the week clearing both sides of a stretch of Deer Park and Sanitarium roads near St. Helena Hospital.
The inmates cleared brush and removed low-hanging branches, feeding everything into a Napa County-owned chipper.
The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation coordinated and sponsored the brush clearing. This was the Deer Park fire safe council’s first undertaking to promote fire safety in the community.
Deer Park’s fire council was formed in 2012. About 40 residents met this fall to discuss the risks of wildfire and a long-term fire protection plan for the community, according to Napa Firewise. Napa Firewise chose the area partly to show the community the “before” and “after” of a vegetation management project in a high-visibility area. It’s a “first effort,” said Stephen Gort, vice president/treasurer for the Napa Firewise Foundation.
If the work had been done by a commercial contractor, it might have cost $97,000, Gort estimated.
While the Deer Park project’s total costs were not available, Napa Firewise spent $225 per day to have the Konocti crews do the work, according to CalFire/Napa County Fire Capt. Amy Head.
Napa County also contributed to the wildfire mitigation project. Employees from the Public Works Department helped with traffic control and operated a cherry picker at no cost to Firewise, according to Napa Firewise representatives.
Napa Firewise, which operates on about $160,000 a year, according to Gort, spends about $75,000 a year on fuel reduction projects. Its funds come from Napa County and small donations from community members.
In October, Firewise received $100,000 from the Board of Supervisors for the fiscal year that ends June 30. In addition, the Napa County Fire Department contributes $50,000 annually for Firewise’s chipper program.
Jail inmates and a crew leader from Napa Firewise make their rounds with a chipping machine, turning limbs and underbrush into mulch at no cost to the residents. The crews in 2012-2013 served more than 650 properties in Napa County — or 35 more than the previous year — producing about 86,780 cubic yards of mulch, according to Napa County.
Firewise also receives grants and donations from the community. Community donations, most of them small, total about $15,000 a year, according to Gort.