In 2018, California experienced the single-largest recorded wildfire in its history, at that time, the Ranch Fire. The Ranch Fire along with the River Fire served to make up the Mendocino Complex Fire that burned in northern California for more than three months.
In response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, Sherwood Firewise Communities (SFC) was formed in April of 2018 to address the need for additional evacuation routes out of the Sherwood Corridor, and for assembly areas and water tank-hydrants to serve Sherwood Corridor residents and property owners. The Sherwood Corridor includes several subdivisions – Brooktrails, Spring Creek, Sylvandale, First, Second and Third Gate, Sherwood Ranch and the Sherwood Valley Tribe Rancheria – with single-family residences in a high fire danger woodland region. The population has a high percentage of elderly citizens and low-income households. The US Census shows 35% of the Brooktrails population is over 50 and almost 20% are under the poverty line which is 1.3 times the California average.
At the first SFC community meeting, attendees were asked to identify the needs of the communities to be better prepared should another fire event occur. As a one way in, one way out community, additional evacuation routes were designated as a top priority.
To carry out the goals of this all volunteer organization, SFC members needed to develop an organizational structure. SFC formed a Steering Group, that governs the organization, and three working groups that provide support, action, and efforts to meet the mission and goals of SFC. The three working groups are: Communications, Emergency Preparation, and Planning and Funding. As the organization grew, and projects were developed, additional volunteers were essential to carry out a variety of tasks. The positions of Volunteer Coordinator, Donations Coordinator, Neighborhood Coordinators and Scanner Scouts were added to the organization.
The founding members of SFC were:
- Keith Rutledge
- Brian Weller
The original members of the Steering Group were:
- Keith Rutledge
- Doreen Blumenfeld
- Paloma Hill
- Brian Weller
The original members of the Working Groups were:
- Emergency Preparedness Group Coordinator – Brian Weller
- Evacuation Planning – Brian Weller, Keith Rutledge
- Home Hardening – Pat Hart, Paloma Hill
- Street Address Sign Program – Elizabeth Hart
- Firewise Community Certification – Keith Rutledge, Brian Weller, Pat Hart
- Communications Group Coordinator – Paloma Hill
- Database – Paloma Hill, Barbra Schor, Zane Adlum
- Website – Doreen Blumenfeld, Barbra Schor
- Public Relations – Doreen Blumenfeld
- Social Media – Nancy Simpson
- Radios – John Lemmer, Paloma Hill, Austin Ballard, Keith Rutledge
- SafetyNet – Paloma Hill, Keith Rutledge, Beckie Blackburn, John Lemmer
- Public Speakers – Doreen Blumenfeld, Brian Weller, Paloma Hill, Keith Rutledge, Susan Proctor
- Planning & Funding Group Coordinator – Brian Ferri-Taylor
- Financial – Joanne Cavallari
- Grant Writing – Keith Rutledge, Jerri Lewis
- Legal – Mickey Fernandez
- Historian Nancy Simpson
- Meeting Logistics – Pat Moeller, Beckie Blackburn, Jeanne Wolfe
- Volunteer Coordinator – Beckie Blackburn
Since its inception, SFC has worked to develop relationships with both governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the: Mendocino County FireSafe Council, California FireSafe Council, CAL FIRE, Community Foundation of Mendocino County, North Coast Opportunities, California Conservation Corps, Mendocino Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s Department, Brooktrails Fire Department, Brooktrails Board of Directors and Willits Area Cyclists. Relationships with these organizations have proved to be invaluable as we work to achieve our goals to make the Sherwood Corridor fire safe. The work of SFC has been publicly recognized as important and supported by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, the Brooktrails Board of Directors, and the Sheriff’s Department.