A small group of workers wearing blue hard-hats, yellow jackets and green r orange pants drag large heavy brown bags up a steep path.
Hand crews from the California Conservation Corps drag away unwanted vegetation at Stevens Park. Credit: Courtesy photo

The Santa Barbara Fire Department and Parks and Recreation Department are working together to reduce wildfire risk in Santa Barbara’s open space parks.

Last week, the departments, with the support of a wildland firefighting hand crew from the California Conservation Corps, removed fire hazards and broke up potential fire ladders in Stevens Park. Work efforts focused on areas of the park closest to residents, property, and public trails.

“We reduced ladder fuels that allow a fire that would have remained in the understory to climb and ignite a canopy fire,” said Mike Lopez, fire services specialist with the Wildland Division. “We also broke down fallen deadwood that can end up smoldering weeks after a fire and reignite.”

Managing vegetation in the wildland urban interface, areas where undeveloped wildland meets human development, requires careful coordination to protect people and property, while having the least possible impact on local ecosystems.
Before work was completed, a city biologist conducted a biological survey to assess the work area for sensitive natural resources. Flags were placed to mark resources to be protected, including woodrat middens and young oak saplings, while invasive plants and trees were targeted for removal.

Crews also underwent environmental awareness training at the start of the day to ensure the work did not impact sensitive resources on site.
“This project has been an ongoing collaboration between Fire and Parks and Recreation. We were able to reduce hazardous fuels in Stevens Park, while also removing invasives to allow the young, protected native species a chance to thrive,” said Monique O’Conner, biologist and Associate Planner for the City’s open space parks.

“This is a great step towards active habitat management,” she said.

The two departments will host community walk-throughs of various open space parks in the coming year to highlight the ongoing vegetation management efforts in line with the goals and processes outlined in the city’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.