Motorists venturing up South Fork Road lately have probably noticed crews with the California Conservation Corps hard at work.

The CCC has partnered with the Smith River Alliance to create a shaded fuel break on the south side of South Fork Road from Rock Creek to just east of Boulder Creek, according to Grant Werschkull, executive director of the Smith River Alliance. The CCC began their work on Jan. 20 and will continue through Feb. 21, according to Werschkull.

The CCC have been camping at Rock Creek Ranch since their work along South Fork Road began in January, according to Werschkull.

“We’re the real partners with the CCCs on this,” Werschkull said. “We had to get the permit, we had to provide housing, we’re doing all the coordination.”

The crews working on South Fork Road come from the CCC’s Fortuna campus, which houses about 100 young adults age 18-25 from Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties, according to Conservation Supervisor Mark Allee. The corps has worked with local fire protection districts, fire safe councils, private landowners, nonprofits and government agencies since 2012.

The CCC has contributed 31,917 hours of fuel reduction work in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties, according to Allee.

Funding for the CCC’s fuel reduction work once came from the State Responsibility Area landowner fees and now comes from the California Cap and Trade program, according to Allee.

Werschkull noted while the fuel reduction work the CCC is undertaking doesn’t necessarily mean inland Del Norte won’t see a big fire, the community, including the Del Norte Fire Safe Council, is protecting itself.

“With the Chetco Bar Fire and the Santa Rosa fire it is totally in, I think, people’s consciousness that this can happen to us in a very big way and there is so much fuel,” he said. “This is where the leadership of the Fire Safe Council has been fantastic is to take these highest risk areas and create those shaded fuel breaks.”

The Chetco Bar Fire consumed 191,197 acres in the Gold Beach and Wild Rivers Ranger District of the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest last summer and forced evacuations east of Brookings and in other areas. Another recent wildfire, the Coon Fire in 2015, burned about 5,684 acres near the lower end of the South Fork Smith River.