NRCS Specialist Returns from Retirement to Assist Wildfire Relief Efforts

Brian German Agri-Business, USDA-NRCS

Communities in northern and southern California continue their ongoing wildfire relief efforts.  To facilitate the process the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) called on the expertise of Rich Casale, who had retired as a Certified Professional Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Specialist in the Santa Cruz area.Wildfire Relief Efforts

“I came back to work following about an eight or nine-month retirement, and hit the ground running assisting property owners, agricultural producers and others that had fire damage,” said Casale, “I’m back because people need my help.  Our natural resources need the value of my experience and what I can bring to the table.”

Having been contracted by NRCS to serve as a Post-Fire and Storm Recovery Expert, Casale began meeting with individuals affected by the fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, “working with grape growers and wineries, working with conservation measures to help protect agricultural land from the coming winter rains.”  Casale has helped livestock producers to, “look at the fire damage to their pasture rangelands and their watershed lands on their farms and ranches.”

Casale assisted with outreach through participating in workshops where presentations were given with information related to wildfire relief efforts and community restoration.  “In my expertise, I’ve met with thousands of people following fires, storms, floods, earthquakes in my now 44-year career,” Casale said.

Once the Thomas Fire started, Casale brought his knowledge down to southern California.  For two months Casale has been helping coordinate relief measures for areas now suffering from the mudslides that occurred as a result of the fire. Originally a resident of southern California, Casale noted that “in all the years I’ve worked for NRCS and in all the emergencies, [I’ve] never really quite seen anything quite like this.”

The role Casale serves in southern California is similar to his role in Napa and Sonoma Counties, in making resources available to community members.  One of the difficulties for Casale is “putting the information in an understandable way so that the land user can understand it and use it effectively and quickly, in many cases following a disaster.”


Listen to the interview below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West