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FEMA Awards Sonoma County $37 Million To Help Mitigate Wildfire Risks

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- Sonoma County will receive a $37 million grant from the federal government to help pay for costs related to wildfire risk reduction, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday.

The funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is designed to reimburse local agencies for money spent on wildfire mitigation, such as vegetation management and fire fuel reduction. The funding also would be used to help private property owners harden structures and create defensible spaces.

President Biden announced the grant during a briefing Wednesday on the intersection of drought, heat and wildfires with governors of western states.

"Today I'm announcing a $37 million grant to Sonoma County, California, in support of fire mitigation efforts that are underway," President Biden said at the start of the briefing. "Because Sonoma knows all too well the devastation wrought by fire, they are the first to apply for the mitigation funds."

The grant is part of a $1 billion Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities funding grant that requires a local match of 25%, approximately $13 million, which Sonoma County plans to finance using PG&E settlement funds, for a total amount of $50 million.

Funding will reimburse the county for mitigation efforts such as selective thinning of certain canopies, trimming undergrowth, fuels reduction for safe ingress and egress of emergency vehicles, and creating fuel breaks and greenbelts to serve as fire breaks.

"Since 2017 we have focused on innovative wildfire risk reduction strategies in Sonoma County. The approval of this project, which is the first of its kind in the country, validates the hard work and innovation in fire risk reduction that's been underway for the last four years," Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said in a prepared statement. "Our goal is to get to 100 percent of at-risk homes having defensible space. This grant will also facilitate 'wildland inward' strategies to create protective buffers around our communities, including landscape scale management strategies like grazing greenbelts and shaded fuel breaks."

The county said from 2017 through 2020, fires have burned more than 300,000 acres in Sonoma County, destroyed nearly 7,000 structures and killed 24 people.

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