Local Hero Awards

Local Hero Award

In 2023, we started what we plan to be a new tradition: The Local Hero Award. The idea is to recognize a member of the community or partner agency who has exhibited extraordinary leadership in the cause of fire safety.

In 2023, we honored two individuals who have had major impacts.

Todd LeBerge

Todd is the former Fire Marshall of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). He is now Assistant Fire Marshall of UCSF Health. FSB’s efforts began in “Hidden Canyon” with our first fuel reduction events. Arguably the most dangerous location in Berkeley from a fire risk perspective, this canyon is half private property and half on UC property leased by Berkeley Lab. We first contacted Todd to get permission to clean up the Lab’s property in the lower part of the canyon. He then hired a tree contractor to clean up the upper portion of the canyon. He then applied for a $3 million CalFire Grant to remove all the eucalyptus trees on Lab property, replacing them with Live Oak. He submitted this grant application three years in a row until it was awarded. The Lab is now preparing an Environmental Impact Report to gain approval for the project. This is the first action to programmatically remove eucalyptus from a large land owner since UC Berkeley’s failed attempt to do so in 2015. We hope that the Lab’s current efforts will be followed by the City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley, and the East Bay Regional Park District to remove the eucalyptus threatening Berkeley and adjacent cities. Todd’s initiative and leadership have been an important step in this process.

Nancy Rader

Nancy was a member of the city’s Disaster and Fire Safety Commission (DFSC) until the end of 2022. She represented District 6 on the commission. Nancy was consistently a highly effective member of the commission, always reading all the distributed materials in advance of meetings and showing up fully prepared to discuss the issues. She took it upon herself to become informed about the science related to the fire hazards of the eucalyptus and other hazardous species. She was the first commissioner to propose the use of Measure FF funds to remove hazardous fuel from the City of Berkeley, beginning with eucalyptus fuel in Fire Zones 2 and 3. She drafted and eventually won approval of a commission recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to programmatically clean up the understory in all hazardous groves in the city, and then to remove and replace the hazardous trees, using Measure FF. After the seven months it took for the commission’s recommendation to reach the City Council, it was tabled, we believe largely because our Interim Fire Chief is developing a Vegetation Management program, supported by Measure FF funds, to remove hazardous fuel from private properties in the city (the question of removal and replacement of hazardous trees still remains unaddressed). Nancy has also worked closely with Fire Department leadership in drafting the details of the pending Vegetation Management and Home Hardening programs, and to point out changes on the City’s code that will be needed to strengthen these programs. Nancy’s extraordinary effort and leadership have been instrumental in moving the City toward using Measure FF funds for the purpose voters expected in passing it to reduce the fire risk.