One year later: Woolman at Sierra Friends Center continues to rebuild after Jones Fire (PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com
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One year later: Woolman at Sierra Friends Center continues to rebuild after Jones Fire (PHOTO GALLERY)

Woolman at Sierra Friends Center Farm Manager Malaika Bishop shows off the recently rehabilitated farm space that she and others have been working on after the Jones Fire burned through here a little over a year ago. Damage from the fire is still visible beyond the farm, and volunteers are still needed to help bring the site back to its full function.
Photo: Elias Funez

One year after the 705-acre Jones Fire burned out of the Yuba River canyon and through dozens of structures, people at the Woolman at Sierra Friends Center have been cleared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild.

While some of the Woolman Center structures were saved from the fire, many structures on the property succumbed to the conflagration.

Modular buildings are on order to replace those structures.



“We had to wait to get the permit to get them installed, and had to wait for FEMA to get the permit,” Woolman Center Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt said of the rebuilding process.

“How long it takes is a major impediment to moving forward,” Coleman-Hunt said. “It took a year for FEMA and contractors to do the debris removal and give the all clear to make sure there were no toxic soils in the ground.”



Many buildings on the historic grounds of the Woolman at Sierra Friends Center were saved from the Jones Fire, though others were lost. FEMA has recently signed off on repairs and modular buildings are on order to be installed at the site.
Photo: Elias Funez

In the meantime, people at the Woolman Center have been doing what they can, including making wildfire safety improvements.

“There’s been a lot of clearing, taking down of structures that are half melted, taking out the roots of the trees that have been left behind,” Woolman Center volunteer coordinator and farm worker Mei Martinez said.

“We’ve cleared about 125 acres of burned timber, and continue to do extreme fuel reductions so that we’re ready for the next fire season,” Coleman-Hunt said.

Farm workers help prepare the top soil at the Woolman farm Wednesday afternoon in preparation of a planting today of winter crops. Farmed goods will be prepared for those attending the Woolman School and other local programs.
Photo: Elias Funez

Coleman-Hunt also described an emergency secondary egress that is in the works, using Cal Fire’s help and the bulldozer fire breaks created during the Jones Fire.

“We were lucky this time that we didn’t need something like that, but in the future fire we may not be as lucky and would need an extra exit,” Coleman-Hunt said.

WORK TO BE DONE

Because their fire insurance was canceled and they were unable to get the same type of coverage they had in the past, Coleman-Hunt says they are going even further with their wildfire protection.

A charred fence board shows how close the Jones Fire got to a memorial area at the Woolman Center farm.
Photo: Elias Funez

“We’re installing hardy boards, metal on all roofs, adding fire hydrants all around campus,” Coleman-Hunt said.

And there’s still a lot of work left to be done, prompting a call for volunteers to help during a number of upcoming work days at the Woolman Center.

There are two volunteer work days: One for farm volunteers on Wednesday mornings, the other on Friday mornings for other non-farm projects, likes repainting, fuel reduction, weed abatement, and other site improvement work.

Woolman at Sierra Friends Center volunteer Karen Olson shows off a bench dedicated to Russel and Mary Jorgensen, previous caretakers of the Woolman Center. Olson helped clear weeds from around the bench during Wednesday’s volunteer session. Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of different tasks, and meet Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Photo: Elias Funez

“We’re looking for volunteers for student housing for retreats for kids’ camps,” Martinez said.

“There are a few buildings that need repainting, the stairs need to be fixed. There are a ton of trails in the area and we’re slowly working towards clearing them and cleaning them up,” Martinez said, adding there are jobs for all skill levels.

Heading up the rehabilitation of the Woolman farm is Sierra Harvest’s Malaika Bishop, who has taken the role of farm manager and is preparing the land for a cover crop, as well as a winter crop consisting of spinach, arugula, cutting lettuce and more.

Apples ripen on the limbs of the heritage orchards that were spared from the Jones Fire at the Woolman Center. Volunteers are needed to help pick the apples, which are then distributed for local use.
Photo: Elias Funez

“The cover crop prevents erosion during the winter and helps build our soil for when we plant in the spring,” Bishop said.

Produce from the Woolman farm will be used to feed those involved in the kids camp, and other programs at the Woolman Center.

“We’ve been selling off the fruit to Wayne Brown Correctional Facility, Emily’s Catering, Interfaith Food Ministry.”

Woolman at Sierra Friends Center Farm Manager Malaika Bishop has been hard at work preparing the Woolman farm for a winter crop at the newly rehabbed farm.
Photo: Elias Funez

People can visit http://www.woolman.org for a complete list of volunteer tasks, or people can just show up at 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays and/or Fridays with work sessions going to 12:30 p.m., though times will be shifting later as the season changes.

Coleman-Hunt said that she is also available to assist anyone that may need help navigating the long rebuilding process that may await them.

“My heart goes out to all of those who lost their homes in the recent fires,” Coleman-Hunt said. “It really does take about a year before you can start to rebuild.”

The farm’s former hoop house has been extended to 95 feet and is in the process of being reconstructed this week at the Woolman farm.
Photo: Elias Funez

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email, efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230


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