Marshall Turbeville

Reducing fire fuel — Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District Chief Marshall Turbeville  helps a Mill Creek Road resident with a vegetation burn on Jan. 14, 2020.

Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District Chief Marshall Turbeville, who’s also a CalFire Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit battalion chief, has been named as one of the three recipients of the prestigious National Wildfire Mitigation Award.

The award is part of the Wildfire Mitigation Awards program, which was established in 2014 by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the USDA Forest Service.

The program was created to demonstrate the importance and value of wildfire mitigation efforts.

“State forestry agencies know firsthand it’s always wildfire season somewhere in the United States. The 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Awardees know this too,” Joe Fox, NASF president and Arkansas state forester, said in an IAFC press release. “In their own ways, this year’s winners have ensured the safety of thousands through their wildfire mitigation efforts.”

The press release, which announced the award winners on Feb. 23, said Turbeville “personifies the consummate firefighting professional.”

Turbeville has played an integral role in the northern Sonoma County community in helping secure funding for the creation of community wildfire protection plans (CWPP) for both the Mill Creek community west of Healdsburg and the north east Geyserville area.

A CWPP is a detailed document that measures wildfire risks specific to an area and identifies ways to mitigate that risk in a comprehensive plan.

He’s also helped with CWPP updates for the Lake Sonoma watershed, Fitch Mountain and County of Sonoma CWPPs.

“It’s always more of an honor for me to get recognized by members of the public for these types of efforts. It’s really important to do what we can for the next emergency. The COPE and those types of efforts are really important, especially in the rural areas. That’s where we need to do a lot of our work. It’s a helpless feeling once an emergency gets going,” Turbeville said. Because of this, Turbeville said it’s important to get as much information as they can to people ahead of time to mitigate risk. 

Turbeville has been instrumental in wildfire fuel mitigation work, including establishing, training and deploying a Northern Sonoma County Fire District fuels management team that has provided hundreds of miles of vegetation management services and thousands of residents with defensible space home inspections and counsel on home hardening, according to the press release.

“Because of Marshall’s actions, residents are significantly better prepared and safer from the dangers of wildfires,” District 4 Supervisor, James Gore said in a statement.

Turbeville also helped create extensively detailed print and digital pre-attack maps — with the help of local COPE groups — which were handed out to responding fire agencies during the Walbridge Fire.

“His local knowledge of the area and mapping background were instrumental during the Kincade and Walbridge fires. He learned from the 2017 fires and his experience in CalFire spread his knowledge. It paid off. We were able to hand out pre-attack maps he made with local COPE groups and distributed them as hard copies or electronic versions to all of the responding resources so they could find addresses, water supplies and fire roads,” said Healdsburg Fire Marshal/Division Chief Linda Collister.

Turbeville is also the founding member of COPE Northern Sonoma County and the creator of the Northern Sonoma County Fuels Crew, a vegetation management team funded by grants.

“Chief Turbeville is driven by the care for his community,” Collister said. “As a member of a neighboring fire agency, we are lucky to work with such a talented and caring fire chief who believes in mutual aid and helping others.”

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