Vegetation Management

Jason Weber, Chief, Fire Department

Marin County Fire Department has decades of experience managing vegetation for fire control.  With the implementation of the California Fire Plan, a forester was hired to implement a Vegetation Management Program. The program is for communities, ranchers, and natural resource managers who wish to strengthen their protection against wildfire.

Benefits of the Vegetation Management Program include:

  • The State of California indemnifies participants against damage liability claims.
  • Up to 90% of project costs are covered.
  • Resource specialists are provided to plan and implement projects.
  • The forester writes Vegetation Management Plans, which include:
    • Public notification plans
    • Smoke management plans
    • Environmental impact reviews, and more.
    • Plans are designed to implement the best management practice to reduce hazardous fuels by three fuel management approaches.

The three fuel management approaches:

  • Residential fuel treatments that are used to create defensible space around structures and neighborhoods.
  • Fuel-breaks are corridors along roads or ridges where vegetation is controlled. Fuel-breaks reduce fire intensity and rate of spread allowing fires to be controlled.
  • Fuel reduction zones are broad, non-linear areas where natural fuels are reduced.
  • There are alternatives to using pesticides on areas of defensible space, please visit our Pesticide Alternatives page for more information on alternatives and use of herbicides.

Please visit the FIRESafe MARIN website to learn more about current wildfire hazard and fuel reduction projects they conduct.

Prescribed Fire: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is prescribed fire?

Also known as Rx fires, controlled burns, hazard reduction burns, vegetation management burns or planned burns, prescribed fire is the planned application and confinement of fire on lands selected in advance to achieve several identified objectives. Those objectives include, but are not limited to, the prevention of high-intensity wildfires through the reduction of the volume and continuity of wildland vegetation, management of vegetation and wildlife habitat improvement.

What’s the purpose of a prescribed fire?

Fires are a common occurrence across California, regularly grooming the state’s landscapes to make way for new growth. As with grazers, hand crews and machine cutting, prescribed fire seeks to mimic those natural processes in a safe, controlled environment, in order to reduce vegetation loads, improve wildlife habitats and curb the risk for catastrophic wildfire. With proper planning, prescribed fire is a safe and cost-effective tool that can be used to reduce fire fuels, and the method has the added benefit of being time tested: For thousands of years, fires have cleared out dense thickets of undergrowth in forests and cleared overgrown grasses from valleys and open spaces, leaving more resilient landscapes behind.

Is prescribed fire safe?

Yes. It’s important to note that the timing of any prescribed fire is developed through close evaluation of daily and seasonal weather, fuel conditions and other important factors influencing fire behavior and fire effects. Just like excluding fire from fire-adapted lands, there is risk when using prescribed fire. Planning, communication and partnerships, whether between public agencies, landowners or nonprofits, are all key to ensuring the safe execution of prescribed fire.

Aren’t there other methods of vegetation management?

Yes. There are numerous methods to manage vegetation in California landscapes, all with various risks and rewards. Among them: the application of herbicide, the introduction of grazing herds, hand cutting and machine cutting. In many cases, the methods are intended to mimic the natural effects of regular fire on the landscape.

Where can I learn more?

Review the following resources, curated by CAL FIRE:

Additionally, learn more from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy about how prescribed fire and mechanical thinning can keep our forests healthier and more resilient.

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