Soboba Gets Proactive To Prevent Wildfires

◆ By Mike Hiles

The Soboba Fire Department launched a large-scale Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) project on the reservation last month. Members of the Public Works Department Canyon Crew and the Soboba Fire Department have been working throughout the community to prevent any wildland fire from encroaching onto the reservation. The scope of work entails clearing and trimming grass, brush and trees for at least 100 feet around residences and 20 feet from the fire line that surrounds the reservation.

Treatment activities consist of mowing and thinning which will assist in reducing the potential loss of human life and damage to property and natural resources on the Soboba Reservation and they will be meeting three fire management goals which are to establish immediate and long-term safety of tribal residents and visitors to the reservation, continue to maintain and upgrade the fuel breaks around the reservation, and to reduce fuel loading to acceptable levels.

Soboba Fire Captain Roger Salmo said training for this position is an ongoing objective since the position is very dynamic with factors like weather, topography and workers’ conditioning. The training consists of Wildland Urban Interface scope of practice like cutting fire lines, creating defensible space, handling and cleaning of tools and equipment. All crew members were required to wear eye/ear protection, long-sleeved shirts, gloves and a minimum ankle height (above ankle) footwear.

The main project objectives were to reduce the potential fire activity intensity in the project area, thereby decreasing the threat of and damage to the tribe’s resources such as residential units and tribal infrastructure facilities, improve wildfire suppression capabilities and control line production potential within the fuel break, meet the goal of “continuing to maintain and upgrade the fuel breaks around the reservation.”

The project consists of maintaining fire breaks, weed abatement and thinning and clearing of brush around buildings and residences on the reservation. The crew utilized weed eaters, chainsaws and any necessary hand tools plus heavy equipment that is already owned by the tribe, to accomplish the treatment activities. Completion of the project will be determined by Soboba Fire Chief Glenn Patterson who is monitoring the project weekly for compliance of treatment objectives.

“The objective for this project was to create a contingency fire break between the primary CalFire dozer line and houses located on the West/Northwest side of reservation,” Fire Captain Roger Salmo said. “We are also created a 100-ft. defensible space around the houses that are in the most fire danger.”

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Photos courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians