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Collaboration, Connection, and Commitment: Successes from a Case Study in Fuels Reduction

July 11, 2024, 10:00am - 12:05pm

This webinar was an opportunity for participants to increase their understanding of how to plan, fund, and implement fuels reduction programs and projects through a successful case study. Jeremy and Ryan highlighted a partnership between a California Utility and a Federally Recognized Tribe to both increase wildfire resiliency and develop capacity with a focus on Collaboration, Connection, and Commitment.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians and San Diego Gas & Electric embarked on a multiyear wildfire mitigation project which focused on reducing hazardous fuels surrounding select utility poles on tribal land while maintaining ecologically important native habitat. Natural Resource Director, Jeremy Zagarella, and Fuels Management Project Manager, Ryan White, discussed the background, preparation, and implementation of a successful collaborative project. This project was specifically structured to ensure that flame length and height, radiant heat, and particulate carbon were reduced while also maintaining some percentage of the ecological services provided by adjacent habitat. They explained how this relationship was established. Collaboration, Connection, and Commitment are the key components that lead to a successful project with the hopes that others can do similar projects.

Workshop Agenda
Time Item
10:00am Webinar begins 

Jeremy Zagarella and Ryan White: Introduction


Jeremy Zagarella: Goal and Subject of Webinar

  Ryan White: Background and overview: SDGE Fuels 
  Jeremy Zagarella: Introduction to Tribal Fuels Work 
11:00am Break
  Jeremy Zagarella and Ryan White: Background and Partnership
  Ryan White: Case study: The Pala/SDGE Pole Project 

Jeremy Zagarella: Case study: The Pala/SDGE Pole Project 


Ryan White: Collaboration, Connection, and Commitment

  Jeremy Zagarella and Ryan White: Conclusion – Partnerships Waiting to be Made 

Webinar ends

Link to presentation abstracts


Jeremy Zagarella, Natural Resources Director at Trihydro, Registered Professional Forester

Jeremy Zagarella (RPF #3229) grew up in Fallbrook, California in San Diego County. He holds degrees from CSU San Marcos, UCLA, and University of Idaho. In addition to being a Registered Professional Forester, he is a NWCG qualified Fire Effects Monitor, Firefighter, Resource Advisor; a SFM California Burn Boss Trainee, and a Certified Fuels Manager though AFE. He is one of two current chairs for the California Fire Science Consortium statewide advisory board, and he has been fortunate to sit on several natural resource related working groups and taskforces.

Before joining Trihydro in 2024, Jeremy spent 20 years working for San Diego County Tribes. He has worked extensively in Federal and State systems, and he has a comprehensive understanding of tribal affairs. He has written and secured millions of dollars in federal and state grants over his career. He planned, funded, and implemented a wide variety of traditional forestry and resource management projects including some of the following: WUI fuels reduction, riparian forest restoration, forest thinning, wildland fuels reduction, reforestation, post-fire surveys, utility fire reduction, flora and fauna surveys, and GIS planning. Jeremy has primarily worked in Southern California Montane Forest, Chapparal, and Oak Woodland systems throughout his career.

Jeremy has worked with diverse groups of stakeholders, and he has been fortunate to collaborate on many of his projects with critical partners whom he would like to thank which include, but are not limited to: USFS, CALFIRE, NRCS, local RCDs, CARCD, Fire Safe Councils, SDGE, Univ. of California, SANDAG, BIA, UCANR, SDMMP, private consultants, and others.

Jeremy is married with three teenage children, two cats, a dog, and a turtle. He spends his off-time surfing, being outdoors, and keeping up with his kids. He is involved in youth soccer coaching and homeless family efforts.

Ryan White, Fuels Management Lead Forester, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)

Ryan White is the Fuels Management Lead Forester at San Diego Gas & Electric and has a career in vegetation management that spans more than 22 years. His forestry journey began in Canada where he earned a degree in Environmental Forestry from Lakehead University. Upon graduation in 2002, he launched Urban Horizons, a tree maintenance company in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Through this experience, Ryan learned the basics of running a small business and the importance of doing what’s right for the customer while maintaining workplace safety. This paved the way for landing a position in the U.S. as a Defensible Space Planner in Los Alamos New Mexico in 2003. As a Defensible Space Planner, Ryan developed individual wildfire protection plans for various homeowners and participated in town hall meetings to educate the community about forest fire mitigation. Here, Ryan developed his passion for wildfire mitigation.

Ryan then accepted a position as a Consulting Utility Forester for San Diego Gas & Electric and conducted inspections to assess the health and safety of trees and other vegetation near power lines. Ryan honed his utility forester skills to secure permanent employment within SDG&E’s Vegetation Management Department nine years later in 2012. He is an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist and Certified Utility Specialist. Currently, Ryan manages the Vegetation Management Fuels Modification Program. In this role he works toward securing SDG&E’s Wildfire Mitigation goals.

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