Apply now to join our next cohort of Community Science Fellows and Community Leaders!

Curating wildfire knowledge, resources, and best practices for residents living with wildfire in Carmel Valley

Carmel Valley, California

Featured image for the project, Curating wildfire knowledge, resources, and best practices for residents living with wildfire in Carmel Valley

The 2020 River Fire burned over 48,000 acres in Monterey County, CA. Credit: Jamie Tuitele-Lewis, RCDMC

Part I of Carmel Valley and TEX wildfire mitigation, education, and planning project

Learning to live with wildfire is a reality that the community of Carmel Valley, California is taking seriously! Together with Thriving Earth Exchange and partners from Monterey County’s Resource Conservation District, the Carmel Valley Association, Cypress Fire District, and CalFire, Carmel Valley is pursuing a wildfire education initiative to ensure that residents know how to be fire ready, fire safe, and fire resilient. 


The Community and the Challenge 

Carmel Valley is a census-designated place (unincorporated community) located in Monterey County, CA with a population of just over 4,000 residents. Located about 10 miles east of the beach city Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley sits within the wildland-urban interface (WUI) where single family, multi-family, and rural residences intermingle with California chaparral and oak woodland ecosystems. Like many communities in California, the region has recently experienced devastating wildfire and residents live with uncertainty (and sometimes fear) as fire risks persist.  

Though California dedicates many resources, personnel, and programs to wildfire mitigation, Carmel Valley residents want to take a more proactive role in building fire resilience into their community. As a first step, the community wants to ensure that all residents are knowledgeable about wildfire planning, what actions they can take to reduce fire risk, and how to access pre-, during-, and post-fire resources. Carmel Valley has experience coming together as a community to share knowledge and promote action in response to challenges such as the 2020 wildfire evacuations and Covid-19 pandemic. The community hopes to build upon this history of collective action to better prepare for and prevent devastation from future wildfires.  


The Project 

Thriving Earth Exchange has joined with Carmel Valley, CA for a two-part project that addresses the challenges of wildfire mitigation and education. In the first part of this project, we focus on wildfire education with the goal of developing a collective community knowledge of the local wildfire landscape, resource availability, and best practices for living with fire. There are two planned outputs for the educational project—a webinar series that will be recorded and posted online, and a wildfire fact sheet. The webinar series will include short talks by various wildfire experts (i.e., local fire district chiefs, CalFire fuels specialists, grant coordinators, wildfire scientists, invasive species specialists) followed by a Q&A session on the following topics: home hardening, defensible space, public safety/power, vegetation and the fire landscape, and emergency planning. We hope to begin scoping part two of the project with participants of the webinar series (possibly with surveys or polls) to identify additional wildfire-related community priorities that could be addressed with a scientific partnership. Once the series is complete, we plan to compile the major takeaways from the talks and disseminate them in short factsheets that can be distributed to the community. The community believes that a better understanding of the wildfire landscape, along with knowledge of the preventative actions that can be taken, will empower residents, reduce the fear and uncertainty of living with fire, and lead to a more fire resilient community.  


Timeline and Milestones 

  • Jan-Mar 2021: Planning and advertising the webinar series 
  • April-May 2021: Biweekly webinar series 
  • May-June 2021: Creation of wildfire pamphlets for Carmel Valley residents 
  • Part I of this project is expected to be complete by summer 2021 
  • Scoping for Part II of project to begin during webinar series 

Project Team

Community Leader: Meredith Nole 

Coming soon! 


Community Leader: Jamie Tuitele-Lewis 

Jamie joined the RCDMC in November 2018. Jamie previously worked at the Sierra National Forest for the US Forest Service for 13 years as the Assistant Forest Botanist. Before that, he worked several seasonal positions for the Forest Service throughout Oregon, Washington and California. Jamie attended the University of Hawai’i at Manoa with a BA in Botany and then went on to achieve his MS in Forest Ecology at Oregon State University in 2004 with his thesis on the biology and ecology of Potentilla recta in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. His career has focused on the management of rare plants, invasive plant management, and large multi-resource project planning. He has worked in several aspects of wildfire response and fuels management activities while in the Forest Service. 


Community Science Fellow: Katie Swensen 

Katie is the Community Science Fellow and project manager on the Carmel Valley and Thriving Earth Exchange wildfire project. She grew up in the California East Bay Area, just a couple of hours north of Carmel Valley, and is currently a resident of Washington State. Katie a Ph.D. candidate at Washington State University in Vancouver, WA studying wildfire ecohydrologyIn addition to her dissertation research, Katie’s wildfire background includes work with the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center as an assistant working group lead and co-author of their 2020 Eastside Wildfire Deep Dive workshop and reportPrior to pursuing a Ph.D. at Washington State University, she completed her M.S. in Geology at the University at Buffalo and her B.S. in Environmental Science at UC Davis.  

Scientists: Various scientists serve as speakers in the webinar series of Part I of this project.  

Part II scientist(s) TBD in Part II scoping/matching.