FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

This page has detailed answers to questions people have asked.

If you prefer briefer answers to the same questions, then visit the page of short answers to frequently asked questions.

What is Fire Safe Camp Meeker All About?

Which government agency is running Fire Safe Camp Meeker?

So the government will be involved in the project?

How much money will this cost me?

Will you make me remove my beloved trees?

Why would people volunteer for this project?

Will people really volunteer to create defensible space?

What is Fire Safe Camp Meeker All About?

Fire Safe Camp Meeker proposes that a legally recognized entity be set up to improve fire safety of the Camp Meeker community by restoring the surrounding redwood forest closer to what it was before it was logged, using a combination of professional workers paid for by grant money and an appropriately organized team of formally trained, certified and equipped volunteers, with legal authorization from government agencies and landowners and with liability and injury coverage.

back to the top

Which government agency is running Fire Safe Camp Meeker?

The Fire Safe Camp Meeker project isn't run by a government agency, it's a grass-roots initiative started by Camp Meeker residents as a response to the Tubbs Fire and other wildfires which have burned across Sonoma County in recent years.

Numerous community members have already volunteered to do the actual defensible space work and circulate the petition, but as far as organization of the project is concerned, Richard Seaman (who was elected to the board of the Volunteer Fire Department largely as a result of his work on this project) created the first draft of the Fire Safe Camp Meeker proposal document and set up this website; Fawn Nekton, who owns Gaffney Insurance Services in Occidental has advised on insurance matters such as liability coverage, volunteer insurance and workers compensation; Kandi Cogliandro of Coldwell Banker real estate is resolving ownership details of the various parcels of forested land in and around Camp Meeker; and Anita Sauber is putting her experience in local government to good use connecting us with people at various government agencies who can be of value to the project.

There's a good reason why we're doing this as a community project. In 2016, Sonoma County sent a team into Camp Meeker to announce that the community had been selected along with Fitch Mountain as part of a pilot program to trial the implementation of the county's new ordinance 13A "Abatement Of Hazardous Vegetation And Combustible Material" . Community members were invited to request inspections of their property so they could be told what work they would have to do to satisfy the ordinance.

The pilot program might have been a well intentioned attempt to get defensible space created in Camp Meeker, but many community members felt that it was "all stick, no carrot", and that the ordinance was too severe, allowing inspectors to enter properties without the permission of the owner, imposing heavy fines if property owners didn't comply very quickly with inspection findings, along with the possibility of jail time and a lien on properties and recovery of attorney fees if the county decides to send in a work crew to do the work. You can read more details in the Fire Safe Camp Meeker proposal document.

Some people also felt that the pilot program involved a lot of work without enough benefit, because it only addressed individual properties without tackling the larger issue of the large packets of overgrown forested land which surround and are embedded throughout Camp Meeker. Since these packets are greater than 5 acres in size, ordinance 13A doesn't apply to them, but if they're allowed to remain in their current state then wildfires can spread unimpeded, regardless of how much defensible space work individual homeowners have done.

The community's opposition made the county decide not to run the pilot program in Camp Meeker, but many community members still felt that something should be done to reduce the wildfire risk, so we started coming up with our own ideas, suited to our own circumstances, and on a scale which would make a real difference if a wildfire like one of the three large Coleman Valley fires during the 1900s started near us, or if one of the periodic fires within Camp Meeker got out of control.

back to the top

So the government will be involved in the project?

Yes, it's about time some of our tax money came back to us, so we're planning to bring in different government agencies on our own terms to help us make this project work. For instance, the California Fire Safe Council has a grants clearinghouse which has $5.45 million dollars in county, state and federal funding for 2018 which they distribute to organizations like the one we're proposing. Getting this funding is a good way to pay for professional arborists from outside Camp Meeker to do difficult work like removing large Douglas Firs near houses, while local volunteers do more straight-forward tree removal away from houses, power lines and other infrastructure.

There are also numerous non-governmental organizations who can make an impact on the project greater than what we can do by ourselves. For instance, Conservation Corp North Bay has work crews who are specifically trained in defensible space work; Forest Unlimited has already planted over 4,000 redwood seedlings on forest owned by St Dorothy's Rest and can provide free redwood seedlings to help get the forest re-established in areas which have been completely taken over by highly flammable bay laurels and Douglas Firs; Trout Unlimited has already been involved in restoration work along Dutch Bill Creek and has legal and other resources to help us gradually create a shaded fuel break along the creek, in a way which doesn't damage this fragile ecosystem and also conforms with government resource permitting.

back to the top

How much money will this cost me?

If you want to donate money to this project, then we'll happily accept it so we can acquire equipment like a heavy-duty wood chipper. However, we don't believe that anyone will have to spend any money on the project if they don't want to.

In fact, we believe that this project will probably save home owners and renters in Camp Meeker hundreds or thousands of dollars over the next decade. Obviously this will be true if the project prevents a wildfire from burning your house down, but the savings can also happen in less obvious ways.

Many of us have experienced trouble getting or keeping insurance in Camp Meeker because we live in the Wildland-Urban Interface. Some insurance companies have specifically complained about overgrown forest on land adjacent to insured properties. Even worse, Fawn Nekton of Gaffney Insurance Services has pointed out that if a fire takes out just a few houses then some insurance companies will probably decide to pull out of the market completely, and others will raise their rates significantly to offset the perceived increase in risk.

There are other, even more subtle ways in which a wildfire could raise costs even for people whose homes weren't burned down. If a significant number of the Camp Meeker Recreation and Park District's customers were burned out, then CMR&PD might have to raise water rates on the remaining customers, in order to cover their ongoing operating and debt servicing costs, quite apart from paying for any direct damage done to the water system by the fire.

back to the top

Will you make me remove my beloved trees?

Fire Safe Camp Meeker won't make you remove your trees if you don't want to, because as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization it won't have any authority to make you remove them. Only government agencies have that sort of authority.

Even if we did have that power, we wouldn't want to use it because we believe this project will only succeed if it has the community's support. If we make you do something you don't want to do, then you won't help Fire Safe Camp Meeker make our community safer, you'll oppose the project and make things more difficult for us.

This is a very long-term project, so we can afford to be patient. There are plenty of dead tan oaks and other problem trees to remove around Camp Meeker, so it won't make much difference if we miss a few here and there. And maybe in 20 years time you'll decide you really like the look of a restored redwood forest after all and you'll ask us to take your trees out then, and we'll be happy to do so if they're a problem.

But, if the County does an ordinance 13A inspection, or CalFire does a Defensible Space Inspection and orders you to cut a tree down, then we'll be there if you want us to help you.

back to the top

Why would people volunteer for this project?

We're all very busy and stressed, and would rather be doing other things, but there are plenty of good reasons why people might want to volunteer to restore the forest and make Camp Meeker more fire safe:

  • Many people have seen the sort of terrifying video (13 seconds) which came out of the recent Sonoma County wildfires showing the infernos which people had to drive through in order to escape. Many people don't want to experience this, either for themselves or for their families. Therefore, the first priority for Fire Safe Camp Meeker volunteers will be to clear fuel from along our internal roads, right in the area where they live. Creating these tactical shaded fuel breaks will make it safer for residents to escape in the event of a wildfire.

  • The loss of thousands of homes during the Sonoma County wildfires has made people realize that it could happen in Camp Meeker, too, and that they could lose their own home. The shaded fuel breaks not only make it easier for residents to escape, they also make it easier for firefighters to come in to fight the blaze. Since there would be less fuel available, any fire would be easier to fight, and the fuel breaks would make it more difficult for the fire to get established and spread in the first place.

  • A mature redwood forest is very beautiful, very open and has very little fuel between trees - think Muir Woods or Armstrong Woods, or the photo at the very top of this page. We can't create giant trees overnight, but we can reduce fire risk quickly and the increased openness will also bring more sunlight into Camp Meeker during the dreary winter months, so maybe we can finally ditch the "Damp Sneaker" label we've been saddled with.

  • Did we mention that a redwood forest is "very beautiful"? Actually, make that "spectacular"! We expect that some people will decide to volunteer for this work because they want to live in spectacular surroundings, and maybe even increase the value of their home as a result.

  • This is a forest restoration project, and for some people that will be their main motivation for becoming involved.

  • The Fire Safe Camp Meeker proposal suggests that the trees and large branches which are removed from the forest to reduce the fuel load should be cut into firewood, some of which will go to St Dorothy's for winter heating and for raising funds for their camp and retreat programs, and some of which will be used to recruit and retain volunteers.

It's true that most people would rather watch TV or play video games than volunteer to work in the forest, but here's the difference:

  • TV and video games give you immediate temporary pleasure and relief from stress but provide little long-term satisfaction.

  • Restoring the forest and making Camp Meeker fire safe involves temporary unpleasantness but gives you long-term satisfaction, improvements which you can see every day as you drive along the street or look out the window, and intangible benefits like reducing your fear of wildfires and improving relationships with your neighbors by working together on shared goals, reducing stress in the long-term.

back to the top

Will people really volunteer to do defensible space work?

We believe so, because we already know of people scattered across Camp Meeker who are going into the forest on their own initiative without the permission of the relevant landowners in order to do defensible space work. You could say that it's a sign of how important this work is to many people in the community, but we don't believe it's a good way of getting things done.

This project brings these people under the control of the landowners, and makes their work much more effective by legitimizing it and setting priorities. The people worried about fires get the defensible space they want, landowners get the control they want and the whole community benefits.

back to the top