For Immediate ReleaseMay 09, 2019
Fire agencies work to inspire residents to do their part with defensible space
San Rafael, CA – Heading into the warmest and driest months of the year, Marin County is on heightened wildfire alert as the hills that hug its neighborhoods gradually fade from green to brown. Fresh memories of devastating and fatal fires in Sonoma, Napa, Butte, and many other California counties are bringing residents, fire agencies and local officials together to increase awareness and emergency preparedness.
Being unprepared and surprised by a wildfire isn’t an option: More than 30,000 structures were destroyed and 130 people were killed in California wildfires the past two years. The North Bay Fires of October 2017 killed 44 and caused $14.5 billion in damage just in Sonoma and Napa counties.
On May 9, Weber spoke at a joint press conference at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato co-hosted by his department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, better known as CAL FIRE. With Mount Burdell and Novato as a backdrop, Weber emphasized his department’s readiness and renewed collaboration with neighboring fire agencies but also that residents need to take on the responsibility to be prepared, especially as wildfires increase in number and severity as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
“Most the times when we lose houses in these fire sieges, it’s from ember showers – it isn’t from a fire front,” Weber said. “What we’re really trying to do is protect homes from raining embers by getting people to consider fire-resistant roofing and to clear spaces around homes of things that can easily catch fire.”
Weber had appeared May 4 at the Marin Wildfire Forum, which attracted more than 400 people to the Embassy Suites in San Rafael. It was the first coordinated public session offered by multiple stakeholders to take a countywide approach to wildfire preparedness. The nonprofit FIRESafe Marin, the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association, and Firewise USA co-hosted that free gathering with the County of Marin.
State and local fire agencies have encouraged residents to decrease structure ignitability by installing fire-resistant roofing, siding, vents, and dual-pane windows. Maintaining defensible space around homes through responsible vegetation management and keeping driveways and roads clear helps ensure access by first responders during a wildfire. Other wildfire mitigation initiatives endorsed by the area’s fire chiefs include:
To achieve those goals, fire agencies are exploring the creation a countywide wildfire prevention program to enhance protection of all Marin residents.
Marin’s worst wildfire in the past quarter century took place on the ridges of West Marin in 1995. The Mount Vision Fire resulted in the loss of 45 structures, the evacuation of 422 residents from the Inverness and Olema areas, and the charring of 12,354 acres. Because of gradual population growth since then and nature-loving residents wanting to live close to open spaces, Marin remains vulnerable to a fast-moving wildfire that would threaten lives and structures.
Emergency readiness is not only one of the Board of Supervisors’ top priorities, but a recent resident survey showed that disaster preparedness and environmental issues ranked among the top concerns of those living in Marin. Residents are urged to register their contact information with Alert Marin notification system overseen by the Sheriff’s OES. More information about fire safety can be found on the FIRESafe Marin website and the Marin County Fire website. Learn about how to prepare an emergency kit at the Ready Marin website.
Video of the May 9 press conference in Novato is archived on Facebook.
Jason WeberChiefMarin County Fire Department
33 Castle Rock Ave.Woodacre, CA 94973(415) 473-6717Email: Jason WeberMarin County Fire website