For Immediate ReleaseMay 04, 2021
Amid dry conditions, Supervisors approve updated protection plan
San Rafael, CA – When does wildfire season start? If you’ve been in Marin County for a while, you know there is no start and finish. It’s constant. That’s the reality of living in Marin with its relatively dry Mediterranean climate during a drought of growing concern.
Wildfire season certainly won’t be stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic, either. The Marin County Fire Department is collaborating with the new joint-powers Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) to raise awareness about wildfire preparedness, and that work will need to proceed whether there is a public health emergency or not.
At its May 4 meeting, the Marin County Board of Supervisors recognized the first week of May as Wildfire Awareness Week and adopted an updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). The Board has been steadfast in its prioritization of wildfire prevention and other emergency preparedness measures, aligning with a recent resident survey.
The CWPP includes actions to reduce the ignitibility of homes and other structures within Marin’s wildland urban interface (WUI). An estimated 69,000 homes are built within Marin’s WUI, in which homes are at greater risk of wildfire because of surrounding vegetation and proximity to wildlands. The CWPP update was funded through a grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CAL FIRE.
In another key step in wildfire prevention, the MWPA was formed in 2020 as a joint powers authority (JPA) after receiving 70.8% support from local voters and is supported by 17 local municipal governments, fire districts, and utility districts. Backed by a $10.8 million work plan, the authority went to work developing and implementing a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness plan for most of Marin that includes facets of vegetation management, wildfire detection and evacuation program improvements, defensible space evaluations, and public education.
Marin County Fire has joined MWPA, the nonprofit FIRESafe Marin, the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association, and CAL FIRE in urging residents to take on the responsibility to be prepared, especially as wildfires increase in number and severity as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
“The drought only adds to urgency,” Weber said. “This is also a much warmer drought than what we experienced in 1970s, and fuel conditions are reflective of that. These drier periods probably are going to be more prevalent, and the frequency of fires will continue to increase. Having 17 agencies working in concert on preparedness is more efficient and effective. Our approach is more strategic.”
MWPA is led by Executive Officer Mark Brown, former deputy chief of Marin County Fire. In its first year, the wildfire authority has systematically implemented its workplan through targeted vegetation management, widespread ignition reduction efforts, providing grants for home hardening, and investing in evacuation planning tools. The MWPA also funds critical fuel reduction projects as well as an ongoing public education campaign through its partnership with FIRESafe Marin. Part of the work includes the chipper program, which provides curbside service for all communities within each of the 17 JPA agencies. FIRESafe Marin also hosts monthly webinars, facilitates community workshops, provides bilingual training, and creates newsletter and educational materials.
“All of our member agencies at MWPA recognize that the question isn’t whether a significant wildfire will impact Marin, but a matter of when,” Brown said. “Over the past year, we have been working to prepare ourselves for this looming threat by taking meaningful steps to prevent and defend against wildfire. Through the close coordination of our JPA members, we have created a strong foundation for the MWPA to fulfill its mission.”
Local fire agencies highly recommend the installation of fire-resistant roofing, siding, vents, and dual-pane windows as a wildfire mitigation method. Responsible vegetation management and keeping driveways and roads clear of overgrown shrubs helps ensure access by first responders during a wildfire.
Residents are urged to register their contact information with Alert Marin notification system overseen by the Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services. More information about fire safety can be found on the FIRESafe Marin website, the Marin County Fire website, the MWPA website, and CAL FIRE’s Ready for Wildfire website. Learn about how to prepare an emergency kit at the Ready Marin website.
Jason WeberChiefMarin County Fire Department
33 Castle Rock Ave.Woodacre, CA 94973(415) 473-6717Email: Jason WeberMarin County Fire website