What is Calli-Jane West excited for this year? Butte County Fire Safe Council’s (BCFSC) first annual Grazing Festival, of course!
Calli-Jane has spent the last 16 years as the Executive Director for BCFSC, a Butte county community-based nonprofit established in 1998 that brings agency and community members together to ensure their neighborhoods are prepared for wildland fires.
So why, exactly, is the Executive Director of BCFSC excited for a grazing festival, of all things? (And on that note, what is a grazing festival?) A grazing festival celebrates the use of goats as tools to help reduce the overgrowth of shrubs and weeds. During this festival, which is planned for June 11th at Terry Ash Recreation Center in Paradise, BCFSC hopes to connect landowners to grazers and projects, something the organization also accomplishes through its grazing program. Grazing farm animals help reduce the amount of vegetation present in the area, which lessens the likelihood and decreases the spread of wildfires.
Wildfire education and prevention is extremely important to BCFSC, especially considering the increase in number and severity of wildfires in the county recently. It’s important to Calli-Jane for personal reasons as well, as she lost her childhood home in the 2020 North Complex Fire.
Services BCFSC Provides (Free of Charge!)
Fire Preparedness Information
Butte County Fire Safe Council does its best to ensure residents have access to fire safety information and materials through various resources. For example, their Chipper Program has provided free brush and branch removal for the last 14 years. Foothill community members can request the service online or by phone, and time spent preparing fuels can even be counted as volunteer hours!
Calli-Jane also urges community members to prepare the areas around their houses for fires by reducing the proximity of vegetation to their homes.
“As a culture, we’re used to having flowers and shrubs right next to our house,” she said. “However, we have learned that embers are part of the major reason that homes burn, and that those first five feet should be clear.”
BCFSC’s Forest Health Handbook also helps educate the public about why forest management is so important. “In these forested communities there are a lot of trees that are thickets, which creates an environment prone to a high-spirited fire,” said Calli-Jane. “We learned that if you can get through a forest on a bike or ATV, it’s been cleared enough. If you can’t walk through it without hitting anything, it’s more prone to fire.”
Butte County Fire Safe Council also focuses on educating children. Calli-Jane actually wrote a book called “Once Upon a Wildfire” aimed at teaching kids about fire safety. BCFSC’s Wildfire Ready Raccoon is their adorable mascot who travels around Butte county to educate local communities about wildfire safety and preparedness (often through his fun rap theme song!), and is loved by both children and adults alike.
Calli-Jane is optimistic about the future and believes the services BCFSC offers to the community are truly helping prevent and lessen the impact of fires that come through the area. She’s noticed more and more residents participating in the Chipper Program, and that the number of people using the BCFSC website is going up…And up…And up.
“I hope the programs we offer encourage people to talk to us,” she said. “The more we can encourage people to make better choices, the better chances of structures surviving.”
Calli-Jane’s Big Win (For Herself & the Community!)
Calli-Jane’s commitment to her community has not gone unnoticed, and she was recently given Senate District 4’s “2022 Woman of the Year” award.
“Heartfelt thanks to Calli-Jane for her passionate commitment to wildfire safety education and protection,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff). “Her leadership and community service has been invaluable to our Butte County communities through the past several years of extreme and devastating wildfires, including the Camp Fire in 2018, North Complex Fire in 2020 and Dixie Fire in 2021.”
Despite this huge accomplishment, Calli-Jane remains humble and hopes this win will inspire others to continue spreading fire safety awareness, whether that’s through the management of their own property or as inspiration for another fire safe council. She’s also adamant about the fact she couldn’t have done this alone and is appreciative of all the assistance she’s received from the rest of the BCFSC staff, volunteers, and board of directors.
Getting Excited for Paradise’s Future
In addition to the grazing festival, what else is Calli-Jane looking forward to? She wants to plant more apple trees to honor Paradise’s historic apple culture, and for all of the family-friendly recreation opportunities she can experience with her children. “We have parks for kids to play in and learn about nature, as well as history from the museum. Paradise is very family-oriented.”
“Paradise is really the best place on earth to live,” continued Calli-Jane. “It’s very exciting being able to see the beauty and hope in all of the projects that are coming together.”