Scientists have been warning that increased fire danger will continue to be an issue in the decades to come. Two years ago, a fire came close to Vajrapani and we evacuated more than 80 retreatants who were on the land at the time. This year, we were in a shut-down mode due to the pandemic, so there were fewer people to evacuate to safety. It is scary when the mandate comes, “Evacuate Now!”
Before escaping this recent fire, we had already begun to clear the underbrush and to cut low tree branches. To aid in this work, we purchased a chipper in preparation for this year’s fire season. Our land team engages in “fire clearance” seasonally when we cut the grasses that are close to our buildings. And for years, we have engaged in fire abatement measures such as large scale water storage, our power system upgrade, and improved road access. However, we now have a clearer picture of the scope of mitigation that is required if we are to protect Vajrapani from future fires.
Having researched the latest recommendations and best practices, we have developed a plan to create defensible space and fire hardening around our buildings. It is a big project for our 80 acres and some 25 structures. We have prioritized the most critical areas that need to be addressed. The Gompa, Chenrezig, Geshe House, the Prayer Wheel, Portola Lodge and the power installation are our first priorities. A local tree company has been hired to perform the recommended clearing around these structures. This work will be completed before this year’s rains.
We anticipate that this comprehensive effort will be doubly pleasing, not only for its preventive benefit, but also by opening the beautiful surroundings to showcase the forest’s natural splendor enjoyed by all.