The East Bay hills will soon be alive with the sound of fire prevention activity.

Cal Fire has announced the recipients of its fire prevention grants for 2021, with the largest award in the Bay Area going to the Moraga-Orinda Fire District, which recently completed a major Cal Fire-funded project in north Orinda.

The state fire prevention grant program provides funding for various local projects and activities including hazardous fuel reduction, fire prevention planning and fire prevention education in order to reduce the risk of community wildfires.

The $6.3 million MOFD Tunnel-East Bay Hills Fuel Break Project will remove hazardous fuels in an area covering more than 20,000 residents and 2,775 acres, running from western Orinda through Oakland, Berkeley, Moraga and into the unincorporated communities of Canyon and Bollinger Canyon.

The project picks up roughly at the end of the 2019 North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break, a $4 million state-funded, MOFD-managed effort that cleared out dangerous fuels in the East Bay along 19 miles of open space from Tilden Regional Park to Acalanes High School.

Cal Fire officials were impressed with the MOFD performance, especially with its public outreach, which included a detailed weekly progress report on the district website.

“Because they did such a good job in north Orinda, it helped them with the grant request,” said Ed Orre, division chief of Cal Fire’s Santa Clara Unit, which includes Contra Costa County. “And the number of people this project may protect was significantly higher than in other areas.”

“MOFD continues to be grateful to our partners from Cal Fire SCU for their support and assistance in securing the necessary funding to extend the North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break to the west and south,” said MOFD Chief Dave Winnacker, who noted that, in conjunction with defensible space, home hardening and large landowner fuel mitigation requirements, the project will significantly reduce the East Bay’s risk of wildfire loss.

Several Bay Area grant recipients

Various entities in the Bay Area received nearly $20 million from Cal Fire in this round of fire prevention grants.

The Woodside Fire Protection District received $2.6 million to reduce wildfire risk along ridgeline forested areas and the state Highway 35 evacuation route in San Mateo County.

The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation was awarded a grant to reduce hazardous fuels around areas from five recent major fires over the last four years, including the Atlas, Lightning, Tubbs and Glass fires.

A grant to the East Bay Regional Park District will be used to create accurate, up-to-date wildfire risk assessment modeling data.

“The vegetation mapping will allow us to see in great resolution where the hazardous fuels are,” Orre said.

Other Bay Area agencies awarded fire prevention grants include the Sonoma Land Trust, the Marin County Fire Department, the Diablo Firesafe Council, the city of Oakland and the Solano County Office of Emergency Services.

In all, Cal Fire awarded 105 statewide grants totaling more than $137 million. Eighty-seven of the projects must be completed by March 2024 and 18, including the MOFD, Woodside and Napa projects, by March 2025.