Wildland fire prevention, preparation and response are part of Midpen's ongoing land stewardship. We reduce wildland fire severity and risk in our region by managing vegetation in the preserves with a focus on ecological health and wildland fire resilience, in alignment with our mission and policies.
In 2021, our new Wildland Fire Resiliency Program was approved, allowing us to proactively increase our ecologically sensitive vegetation management approximately six-fold over ten years.
Before new projects begin, biologists and archeologists conduct surveys to identify and protect sensitive plants, animals and cultural sites. Non-native and invasive plants are prioritized for removal over more fire-adapted native plant species.
This fact sheet provides a broad overview of our work to prevent, prepare for and respond to wildland fire. Read below for details.
Goals and Objectives
Beginning in 2021, we're proactively expanding our environmentally sensitive vegetation management six-fold over the next decade with our Wildland Fire Resiliency Program in order to:
- Promote healthy, resilient, fire-adapted ecosystems
- Reduce wildland fire risk
- Facilitate the response of fire agencies
The Wildland Fire Resiliency Program has four main elements:
- Vegetation Management Plan
Expanding environmentally sensitive vegetation management into new areas of our preserves for ecological health and public safety.
- Preserve Maps to Assist Fire Agencies (Pre-plan and Resource Advisor maps)
Updated and expanded preserve maps provide critical information to fire agencies responding to wildland fire events, including water sources, roads and gates and sensitive natural and cultural resources.
- Monitoring Plan
Collecting scientific data and monitoring to ensure the program is adaptable and meeting our goals.
- Prescribed Fire Plan
Reintroducing prescribed fire to Midpen’s land management toolbox in 2023, in partnership with Cal Fire. Watch a presentation on the prescribed fire aspect of the program from a July 2022 virtual community open house event:
As part of Midpen’s ecological approach to vegetation management, we are careful not to impact sensitive plants and wildlife. One way we do this is to avoid work during nesting bird season, which ends September 1.
Grant-funded vegetation management work will be performed by San Mateo County FireSafe Council contractors and the Woodside Fire Protection District within the public right-of-way along Highway 35 from Page Mill Road to Windy Hill Open Space Preserve.
The project also includes a new fuel break in the upper portion of Windy Hill Open Space Preserve.
To safely conduct mechanical fuel treatment in upper Windy Hill, Midpen is closing segments of Lost Trail from the intersection of Hamms Gulch Trail to the Anniversary Trail on weekdays only starting May 25 through June 2 between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Starting the week of June 5, fuel treatment work will be moving north to Spring Ridge Trail, which will require intermittent closures of Anniversary and Herb Grench Trails for up to two weeks.
This work is part of ongoing wildland fire fuel reduction along the Highway 35 corridor focusing on the removal of invasive brush amongst native grasslands.
Forest health work is scheduled to begin on Monday, November 28, 2022. It will continue through April 2023 as part of the Los Gatos Creek Watershed Collaborative Forest Health project. The project will include removing and reducing vegetation to meet forest health and wildfire fuel management goals. Work may involve using heavy machinery, including, but not limited to, masticators, mowers, chainsaws, and woodchippers.
Vegetation treatment will focus on increasing forest health through understory thinning, removal of dead and dying trees and control of invasive species.
Fire prevention, preparation, and response are an ongoing part of Midpen’s land stewardship. By proactively managing environmentally sensitive vegetation, we can help establish healthy, resilient, fire-adapted ecosystems; reduce wildland fire risk; and facilitate fire suppression.
This strategic fire management work at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve was planned in partnership with the Los Altos Hills Fire Department. The project is expected to run March through May 2023 along the Chamise Trail from the Rhus Ridge Trail junction to the Ravensberry Trail junction. The work area will generally follow close to the ridgeline, where fuel breaks are most effective, and will include reducing brush, small trees and any dead vegetation in an ecologically sensitive manner to protect native plants and wildlife in the area.
In Spring of 2023, Midpen is preparing to conduct a planned one-day pile burn in a closed area of Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. The exact date will be determined within 48-hours when air quality, wind, temperature, humidity and fuel moisture conditions meet safety requirements.
Planned pile burning of is one of many tools Midpen strategically uses as part of our Wildland Fire Resiliency Program to manage vegetation for ecological health and wildland fire safety. Midpen chooses to use planned pile burning in open, safe areas when it can be beneficial for reducing vegetation while returning nutrients to the soil and germinating the seeds of native fire-dependent plants without using vehicles to haul materials off-site. Biological monitors inspect piles prior to burning to ensure no wildlife are present.
Midpen staff are maintaining an existing fuel break along Charcoal Road in Saratoga Gap Preserve. Work has been ongoing since winter 2022-23, and includes thinning out low branches and understory plants.
Midpen staff are working with the San Jose Conservation Corp on the mechanical and manual fuel treatment of a 2 acre shaded fuel break area located in the southeastern corner of Hawthorns adjacent to Portola Ranch and the Sweet Spring Trail. The project will work around a nearby stream to minimize impact to this riparian area.
This project is anticipated to last through the end of June 2023.
Though wildland fires seldom start in Midpen preserves, our staff work year-round to prevent, prepare for and respond to fire by:
- Maintaining hundreds of miles of fuel breaks and fire roads throughout our preserves, some of which are used as emergency ingress and egress routes for neighbors.
- Annually training Midpen field staff as fire first responders
- Outfitting ranger trucks with water pumpers during fire season
- Reducing vegetation using conservation grazing on more than 6,500 acres on the San Mateo County Coast
- Enforcing regulations against smoking, fires and guns in the preserves
CZU Lightning Complex Fire
In August, 2020, fire-trained Midpen ranger and maintenance staff assisted Cal Fire in holding the north fire line at Old Haul Road, preventing the fire from reaching Midpen preserves and Skyline-area communities and beyond.
The lightning storm that sparked the CZU fire, also ignited four small fires on Midpen land that fire-trained ranger and maintenance staff quickly located and extinguished.
Hear directly from staff about their experience on the CZU fire line in this presentation given at a special public meeting of the Midpen board of directors on October 28, 2020.
Fire is a fact of life in California and everyone plays a role in living safely with it. More than 95% of wildland fires in California are caused by human activities, according to Cal Fire.
Do your part to prevent and prepare for fire by:
- Hardening your home against fire, create defensible space around it and have an evacuation plan
- Signing up for county emergency alerts.
- Recreating safely to prevent fires and so emergency resources are available to respond to fires: stay cool and bring plenty of water, or consider other plans.
- Stay aware of red flag warning weather when fire danger is highest and refraining from activities that could spark fires.
CAL FIRE’s Ready for Wildfire website
San Mateo County Fire Safe Council
San Mateo County emergency alerts
Santa Clara County Fire Safe Council
For those who choose to live in the wildland-urban interface, creating defensible space and hardening your home are some of the most important things you can do to protect your property.
Neighbors can apply here for a free permit allowing you to reduce vegetation on Midpen land, within 100 feet of occupied structures, to create defensible space around your home.
- Obtain a free fire hazard inspection from your local fire agency.
- Fill out this online form.
- Midpen staff will schedule a site visit with you to discuss your project and program details.
- The occupied structure should be in compliance with applicable planning, building, and zoning laws.
- Applicants and contractors must have general liability insurance and any required licenses.
- Cost of vegetation removal and any required environmental review are the applicant's responsibility.
Other requirements may be identified in the permit for consistency with Midpen’s resource management policies and practices.
Defensible Space Resources
Check with your local fire department for additional information about defensible space.
Questions? Contact Midpen at 650-691-1200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently Completed Project Highlights
Project Updates and Related Stories
Midpen staff work cooperatively with neighbors, fire agencies and regional fire safe councils on fire prevention and preparedness efforts. The Midpen board of directors has this identified this work as an objective within strategic goal of protecting the positive environmental values of open space land.
Local fire departments (such as Palo Alto, Woodside Fire Protection District, and Santa Clara County), and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are the agencies in our region that are responsible for fire suppression. Cal Fire’s role is supplemented by statewide mutual aid agreements for large wildland fire events.