Communities across the Sierra are proactively preparing for wildfire, but language barriers create a divide between fire-ready community members and those excluded from fire safety programs and outreach. As the threat of catastrophic wildfire in the Sierra Nevada becomes better understood and communities develop plans and strategies to respond to this possibility, The Sierra Fund has created a program to engage Spanish-speaking residents in the region. Beginning first in Nevada County, where Spanish-speakers represent the second largest ethnic group, the project will improve access to information and resources in Spanish about becoming fire-ready.
Due to climate change, wildfires are growing in size, frequency, and intensity, and wildfire seasons are becoming longer. This project serves environmental justice at the nexus of wildfire in rural Nevada County to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to protect themselves and their families when wildfire is on the horizon.
Spanish-speakers represent about 8% of Nevada County residents. Outreach to Spanish-speakers is part of The Sierra Fund’s work with under-estimated communities. TSF conducted a needs assessment early in the project that identified fire was the primary concern of Latinx residents in Western Nevada County. However, there were few Spanish-language materials available about fire preparedness and no local emergency communications were available in Spanish.
The Sierra Fund’s project goal is to make sure that Spanish-language materials and emergency communications about fire-preparedness are available in Nevada County and neighboring Sierra and Yuba counties – and beyond. Toward that end TSF has conducted presentations for Spanish-speakers to share newly translated material and community resources, and piloted new methods for communicating with Spanish-speaking communities to provide critical information during wildfire events.
The Sierra Fund worked with the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services to translate their Ready, Set, Go! Guide to Fire Preparedness. We were successful in getting the County emergency alert system messages be made available in both Spanish and English in western and eastern Nevada County. Another impact of our organizing efforts is a new social media group dedicated to fire preparedness in Spanish.
The Sierra Fund wants to ensure that Spanish-speaking residents in other Sierra Nevada counties have the same resources that are available to Nevada County, starting with neighboring counties. Approximately 7% of residents in Sierra County and 18% of residents in Yuba County are Spanish-speaking. The Sierra Fund is working to ensure that emergency communications are available in those counties in multiple languages.