Springs Fire Safe Council seeks funds for Spanish outreach

The Springs Fire Safe council is asking the county for more funds to go toward outreach efforts to the Spanish speaking community.|

The Springs Fire Safe Council received endorsement from the Springs Municipal Advisory Council to pursue $10,000 from the county for outreach efforts to the Spanish-speaking community.

The reason for the funds is due to the population size and demographics of the area the Springs Fire Safe Council covers versus other fire safe councils, according to council board member Lucas Patzek.

Fire Safe Councils are grassroots community-based organizations in California, which plan for catastrophic wildfires in order to make their communities less vulnerable. The Springs Council is partnered with Fire Safe Sonoma, the fiscal sponsor for fire safe councils throughout the county.

“We just need this professional support to get this process grounded in the community,” Patzek said to the Springs MAC last week.

While many other fire councils create plans for a few hundred people who are often in specific neighborhoods or home owner associations, the Springs Fire Safe Council must plan for the evacuation of more than 12,000 residents throughout Boyes Hot Springs, Patzek said.

Hannah Perot, a council member of the Springs Municipal Advisory Council echoed Patzek’s points, saying the size of the Springs changes the equation when it comes to funding the fire safe council.

“We’re essentially a small city without the legal status of a city. Fire Safe Sonoma is doing something called a (California Wildfire Protection Plan), which is giving us money to assess our area for dangers,” Perot said. “But we are asking for additional money because we’re so unique.”

Fire Safe Sonoma has managed over $2 million over the past two decades to improve fire protection in unincorporated areas of the county, with that money being distributed through out fire safe council districts. But the money “doesn’t quite cover the amount of outreach we would need,” Patzek said about the Spanish-speaking community of the Springs.

Because about 40% of Springs residents are Latinx and often are more comfortable speaking Spanish, Patzek said, finding a fluent Spanish-speaking coordinator for the fire safe council would enhance the council’s effort to create a wildfire protection plan.

“Lots of things that come up just from community knowledge... there’s all sorts of things come up with this sort of process all the way through to how we're prioritizing projects” Patzek said. “We need to be able to do that in Spanish.”

The part-time coordinator would aid the fire safe council over the next year to identify hazards and issues in their planning for future evacuations of Sonoma Valley if and when the next wildfire threatens residents. Patzek also believe the funding could open more lines of communication between the fire safe council, which is not Spanish-proficient, and the Spanish-speaking community of the Springs.

“It is crucial that our entire community is part of the Fire Safe process and can access and understand the meetings and plans,” the letter seeing funds from the Board of Supervisors said.

“Evacuation routes will be an essential part of the plan,” Patzek said, “and we need to make sure our whole community is on board with the plan when it is go-time.”

Springs MAC members unanimously endorsed the letter before it was sent to the supervisors. Patzek said the Springs Fire Safe Council expects to create a fire evacuation plan for the Springs over the next year.

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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