"The safety of our communities and of the firefighters that protect them is our primary mission. We are dedicated to timely delivery of fire and life safety services to our communities. We work in partnership with you for the safety of our great communities."
This year I am honored to serve as the President of the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association. This association serves as leaders in fire protection, and in identification and reduction of wildfire hazards and risks to our communities throughout Marin County. Our belief is that by working collaboratively, we are better together.
Recent extreme fire events in neighboring communities have compelled the Marin Fire Chiefs to develop an enhanced plan and program to identify, target and reduce wildfire hazards in our most vulnerable areas.
Using the best available science and information, these initiatives accelerate dissemination of wildfire related public information, engage citizens in our most vulnerable areas, assess vegetation and structural risks, inform and advise on critical risk reduction activities.
The 6-point program will provide technical assistance and financial assistance and incentives as circumstances and funds allow.
These Enhanced Wildfire Mitigation initiatives build upon existing fire protection, prevention, and mitigation efforts, the 2016 Marin Community Wildland Protection Plan (CWPP), 2017 Lessons Learned Report, and other important resource documents such as a 2018 NFPA Report entitled, “Wildfire Risks: 3 Powerful Tips to Move People to Action,” and the Association of Bay Area Government’s White Paper on Bay Areas Wildland Urban Interface review of risks, plans, and strategies.
What is now required of the public is a SEA CHANGE: Defined as a PROFOUND or NOTABLE TRANSFORMATION.
Here are the 6 initiatives:
1. Expanding existing Fire/Fuels Crews to be used county wide to support and accelerate expanded fire fuels reduction through approved vegetation management projects and operations; including equipment and facilities We would likely pursue multiple strategies (work crews, goats, contractors and machinery) to reduce fuels and help to ensure that we are implementing the most cost-effective practices for fuel reduction on an ongoing basis.
2. A countywide program to evaluate existing Ignition Resistant Construction and Defensible Space on properties in order to reduce the structural ignitability in our collective existing built environment. Hiring a cadre of Hazard Mitigation Specialists to go parcel by parcel across the county to meet people face to face to help homeowners, and write prescriptions for homeowners to follow, plan for, and implement over time. Inspections of homes and education of residents to reduce vulnerability of a home - this work could be done by a shared service model or by the responsible fire agency.
3. Increased Public Education / Outreach. Engagement and support of Firewise Neighborhoods, Town Hall style meetings with presentations, red flags, banners, electronic message boards, newsletters, resource material magazines, post cards, newspaper articles, social media, and advertisements on buses and gas station pumps.
4. Alert and Warning system enhancements, evacuation planning and infrastructure improvements. Ensure early alert and warning, adequate traffic flow to maximize evacuation speed and safety; Identification of areas of temporary refuge.
5. The expansion of a Grant Program to increase funding of fuel reduction and to incentivize homeowners to reduce fire prone plants, and aid seniors, low income and those with Access and Functional Needs. A local grant program ensuring elderly, access and functional needs, financially disadvantaged can reduce fire risk of their properties. In addition, this program would include seeking grants and leveraging local investments for wildfire prevention and disaster preparedness programs.
6. Fire and Building Codes with consistent application of approved requirements to mitigate and prevent the unwanted effects of wildfires, to be enforced by all agencies—Locally, Vacant Lots, Vegetation Management Plans, etc. We believe there will be inevitable changes coming at the State level under the Public Resource Code for clearance from structures.
There are three priorities that every resident should know and take action on:
Emergency and evacuation notifications by phone will primarily come via reverse 911 and Alert Marin from the Office of Emergency Services. It is imperative that residents have an evacuation plan and sign up for emergency alert notifications at: https://www.marinsheriff.org/services/emergency-services/alert-marin
Neighborhoods can help saves lives and property from wildfire by becoming Firewise. The Firewise USA program empowers neighbors to work together in reducing risk. www.firewise.org
Lastly, in a conversation with an attorney that deals with policyholder claims, it was indicated that 74% of the Santa Rosa fire victims were under-insured on their home policies. The attorney recommended reviewing ones coverage with their agent and request Full Replacement Cost coverage, and to increase ones Loss of Use coverage, if available, and to buy as much coverage as one can afford.
Fire Chief Bill Tyler