UPDATE: On August 13, the Board of Supervisors expressed unanimous support for this initiative but did not take a vote. It will return to the Board at a later date.
San Rafael, CA – In response to the need for a coordinated countywide coalition to prepare for wildfire risk, Marin County fire agencies and municipal governments have proposed creation of a new joint powers authority (JPA) agreement that could be – with voter approval – the source of improved coordination and funding for local wildfire prevention efforts.
The formation of a wildfire prevention joint powers authority will help Marin County be better prepared when wildfire strikes.
Given the changing climate and increased risk of wildfires, partners with FireSafe Marin, the Marin County Fire Department, other fire agencies throughout the county, and Marin’s cities and towns have worked to coordinate efforts and make the community safer and better prepared.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors on August 13 plans to discuss the proposed Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority and a potential ballot measure to raise approximately $20 million per year. The money would be used to improve and oversee programs in early wildfire detection, improved alert and warning systems, resident evacuations, vegetation management and fuel reduction, defensible space property evaluations, public education and more.
Staff will update the Board about next steps in the multijurisdictional effort to create the new authority coupled with a potential new revenue measure. The measure, a special parcel tax, would be considered by countywide voters in March 2020. The estimated $20 million in annual funding would stay in Marin, be protected from state coffers, be restricted to wildfire prevention programs, and be subject to independent oversight and audits.
“We have been working on a new approach to coordinate wildfire prevention efforts for some time, and we’re glad that residents and partners around the county understand the urgency of this proposal,” said Bill Tyler, Novato Fire Protection District Chief and the president of the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association. “It’s necessary because fire does not respect jurisdictional boundaries. This JPA would create a sustainable financial commitment to better protect our community.”
Marin’s natural beauty and abundant undeveloped lands are considered source fuel for a potentially devastating and fatal wildfire similar to the ones that have ravaged Sonoma, Napa, and Lake counties and the Butte County town of Paradise over the past few years. Many Marin neighborhoods are adjacent to wildlands because of a strong desire to live close to nature. Marin’s fire agencies and FIRESafe Marin are among the organizations promoting the creation of defensible space around homes.
The County has a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, updated in 2015, and also produced a report in 2018 “Lessons Learned from North Bay Fire Siege,” both of which called for more coordination. Over the winter, responses to a countywide resident survey indicated that disaster preparedness is among the top priorities of Marin’s population. This April, the Marin County Civil Grand Jury also issued a report on wildfire preparedness and urged a more coordinated effort.
Organizers of the JPA plan to make informational presentations to fire district boards, town councils and city councils through September and return to the Board of Supervisors with any proposed modifications to the JPA plan. Residents are encouraged to attend the presentations and share public comments.
The August 13 presentation to the Board will be televised live on Comcast Channel 27 for Comcast and AT&T U-Verse subscribers. It will be webcast live on the County website and archived for future viewing. The meeting will be in the Board of Supervisors chamber, Suite 330, Marin County Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael.
All public meetings and events sponsored or conducted by the County of Marin are held at accessible sites. If you are a person with a disability and require information or materials in alternative formats – or if you require accommodation to participate in a county program, service or activity – please contact department staff by email or at 415-473-7331 or 415-473-4381 (voice/TTY).