The Marin County Fire Department wishes to acknowledge the
efforts of individuals who played significant roles in the development of
the Marin County Fire Management Plan: Foremost, the California Department
of Forestry and Fire Protection for providing the vision and funding to implement
this plan, specifically, Staff Chief Wayne Mitchell for providing his guidance
There are many individuals who played a part in developing
this plan. Here are just a few of those individuals:
Deputy Chief James B. Selfridge validated new methodologies
and provided historical information. Administrative Officer Deann Nielsen
performed proofreading, editing, and countless revisions. Chief Stan Rowan
provided political guidance and approved numerous purchase requests for equipment
needed to create this plan. Fire Marshal Keith Parker contributed fire prevention
information. Forester Kent Julin contributed information on project implementation
and stakeholders. Accounting Technician Gabriel Garcia assisted with formatting
Table of Contents . . . Click on words to go to that section.
A Prescription For Reducing Cost And Losses From Wildland Fire
California Fire Plan Executive Summary
Goals And Objectives
Marin County’s Wildland Fire Protection Plan Framework
Defining The Wildfire Problem In Marin County
Level Of Service
Assets At Risk
Summary Of Projects-Current And Future
Key Impacts For Project Implementation
Appendix A -- Initial Stakeholder List
Appendix B -- Fuel Methodology And Ranking
Appendix C -- Weather Methodology Index
A Prescription for Reducing Cost and Losses from Wildland Fire
The Marin County Fire Department is proud to protect one
of the most beautiful places in the state. This protection is provided by
firefighters stationed in seven fire stations and two lookouts. With the impending
threat of a catastrophic wildfire, the department is always striving to provide
the highest level of service to Marin’s inhabitants. By evaluating the county’s
geographic environment, the department will reduce the fire danger by vegetation
management in critical locations. The Marin County Fire Department has adopted
the California Fire Plan in pursuit of this goal.
California Fire Plan Executive Summary
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
and State Board of Forestry have drafted an update of the Plan for Wildland
Fire Protection in California. The fire planning process defines a level of
service measurement, considers assets at risk, incorporates the interdependent
relationships of wildland fire protection providers, affords public stakeholder
involvement, and creates a fiscal framework.
Goals and Objectives
The overall goal is to reduce the total costs and losses
from wildland fire in California by protecting assets at risk through focused
prefire management and increasing initial attack success.
The California Fire Plan has five strategic objectives:
- To create wildfire protection zones that reduce the
risks to citizens and firefighters.
- To assess all wildlands, not just the state responsibility
areas. Analyses will include all wildland fire service providers: federal,
state, local government, and private. It will identify high risk, high
value areas, and develop information on and determine who is responsible,
who is responding, and who is paying for wildland fire emergencies.
- To identify and analyze key policy issues and develop
recommendations for changes in public policy. Analysis will include
alternatives to reduce the total losses by increasing fire protection
- To focus and monitor the wildland fire protection system
in fiscal terms. This will include all public and private expenditures
and economic losses.
- To translate the analyses into public policies.
Marin County’s Wildland Fire Protection Plan Framework
These major components will form the basis of an ongoing
fire planning process to monitor and assess Marin’s wildland fire environment.
Perform a four-factor assessment that
defines Marin County’s wildland fire risk and hazards.
- Assess hazardous
vegetation location and fuel loading as it relates
to assets at risk.
- Assess severe
fire weather conditions based on occurrence
- Assess levels
of service provided to the citizens of Marin
County. This measure is the percentage of fires that are successfully
controlled before unacceptable costs are incurred.
- Assess assets
at risk that are protected. The plan will establish
a methodology for defining assets protected and their degree of risk
Stakeholders are defined as national, state, local and private
agencies and interest groups. Stakeholders will be identified for each asset
at risk from wildfire. This will enable fire service managers and stakeholders
to set priorities for prefire management project work.
The Marin County Fire Management Plan takes action before
fires occur to reduce the frequency, severity, and size of wildfires. Management
projects include fuel reduction and fuel breaks, ignition management, and
fire safe engineering activities. The wildland fire assessment will rank the
priority for projects. The Marin County Fire Department will write prescriptions
designed to protect these assets. Who benefits and who should share in the
costs will be identified.
Defining the Wildfire Problem in Marin County
Defining Marin County’s high risk and hazard areas is a
subjective equation. Every fire jurisdiction
states that it has the worst fire problem in the county. Likely, the agency
is right! In the event of a major wildland fire, every jurisdiction in
the county and numerous state and federal agencies would be tapped for
equipment under mutual aid agreements. Knowing that a fire respects no
political boundary, every jurisdiction in the county has a high degree
of fire risk.
Today’s wildfires are very costly! It is not unrealistic
that cost figures soar to over $1-million dollars a day. This is just
the suppression cost. Loss figures are sometimes hard to calculate. Not
only homes are destroyed, but home-based businesses, utilities, recreation
areas, and the habitat for numerous species.
The Mount Vision Fire is a perfect example of a large,
damaging, and costly fire to extinguish. Suppression cost reached $6-million
dollars. Structure costs reached $23-million dollars with the loss of
48 homes, with another 18 suffering substantial damage. The damage cost
figure to repair utilities reached $1.3-million. Rehabilitation, the act
of stabilizing roads and slopes for erosion control, cost another $1.3-million.
Fire departments alone cannot fix the problems. It will
take cooperation from stakeholders in order to identify the hazards, design
mitigation strategies, and seek funding from unconventional sources. Fortunately,
Fire Safe Marin is a proven facilitator of local stakeholders.
Stakeholders are defined as national, state, local, private
agencies, or interest groups, with assets at risk from wildfire. This
plan will establish a methodology for defining assets protected and their
degree of risk. The assets addressed in the plan are citizen and firefighter
safety, watersheds and water, wildlife and habitat (including rare and endangered
species), unique areas (scenic, cultural, and historic), recreation, range,
structures, and air quality. Stakeholders are identified for each asset at
risk. The assessment will define the areas where assets are at risk from wildfire,
enabling fire service managers and stakeholders to set priorities for prefire
management project work. Major landowners, managers, and asset groups are
The largest landowner within Marin County is the United
States government. The federal holdings equate to 80,233 acres. Most of
this acreage is found in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA),
Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), and the old growth redwoods located in Muir
Woods National Monument.
parks offer recreational opportunities that bring numerous tourists into
the county year-round. During the Vision Fire, bed-and-breakfast inns
and 16 major businesses lost $1.365-million due to the lack of tourism.
There are over 140 miles of hiking trails and four hike-in
campsites for visitors to explore. Although wood fires are prohibited, illegal
campfires are still a source of ignition.
The parks offer scenic vistas and provide a home to nearly
20 percent of the states flora and 45 percent of the bird species of North
America. Sensitive species include coho salmon, steelhead trout, elephant
seals, red legged frogs and tule elk. PRNS also has the highest number of
spotted owls in the nation.
Other assets within the parks include rangeland and historical
areas. The park allows grazing lands and has a working horse ranch. Of historical
significance, is the West Marin Pierce Ranch built in 1859.
Park Service is in the process of completing a fire management plan for
the Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate Recreation Area. The fire
management plan and activities incorporate public health and environmental
quality considerations. The plan will address desired objectives, but is balanced
with other societal needs, including air quality, public health, and safety.
The Marin County Fire Department provides resources that assist the National
Park Service with its planning effort and project implementation.
Municipal Water District (MMWD) manages over 21,000 acres of watersheds
and reservoirs. MMWD is a public agency that provides
drinking water to 170,000 people in a 47-square-mile area
of Marin County. This land is not only used for water storage, but provides
recreational activities and habitat.
In 1995, MMWD developed a 10-year plan for managing
the vegetation on the watershed. This plan represents MMWD's most comprehensive
natural resources management effort ever. Among the plan’s goals are: fire-hazard
reduction, minimizing the potential for erosion, and controlling the spread
of non-native plants that can displace native plants and animals. The plan
also calls for the restoration of meadow and oak woodlands, and the protection
of rare plant species.
One of the primary goals of the vegetation management plan
for Mt. Tamalpais is to reduce fire hazard. Since the start of record keeping
in 1859, major fires have raged through MMWD lands periodically. An 1882 fire
burned an estimated 65,000 acres, and a 1923 fire swept south over 40,000
acres from Novato to Alpine Lake. In 1945, the last major fire consumed vegetation
on 20,000 acres of watershed land. Fuels have been accumulating since then.
Some areas of chaparral and evergreen forest have not burned in almost 70
years. With dry summers the rule, the potential for another disastrous fire
MMWD and MCFD are creating a strong defense against wildfires
by building a network of fuel breaks that will help firefighters contain wildfires.
Both agencies create the breaks by thinning heavy vegetation along fire-protection
roads in strategic ridgetop areas to provide access for firefighters and create
fire protection zones where they have a better chance of containing fires.
Within these zones, ground fuels are removed and lower branches of larger
trees are pruned, while retaining as much forest canopy as possible.
Both agencies conduct carefully managed burns on about 100
to 200 acres per year (less than one percent of watershed land). These prescribed
fires serve to control non-native plants, reduce fuels, and maintain natural
habitats. Left unchecked, invasive plants create a heavy fuel load and push
out native species, reducing biodiversity on Mt. Tamalpais.
The State of California owns or manages over 17,000 acres of land within Marin
County. The areas include five State
Parks and two State Historical Parks that draw almost 1.5-million visitors
annually. The California State Parks Department conducts prescribed fires
within China Camp and Mt. Tamalpais in order to reduce non-native plant species.
Under the leadership of State Parks, the county’s most successful
multi-stakeholder project was implemented. A series of controlled burns combined
with mechanical clearing by homeowners created a community fuel break along
Panoramic Highway and Ridge Avenue above Muir Woods.
The County of Marin
Open Space District (Open Space) is responsible for 32 open space preserves
with holdings equating to over 12,000 acres of land. They manage lands in
a fashion that ensures the protection of environmental integrity through time.
Wherever possible, a "light on the land" approach is preferred to excessive
human intervention. This reduces management costs and ensures that open space
areas are maintained in a fashion consistent with their wild and natural character.
Unfortunately, this wild and natural character creates areas with a high fire
hazard. Most open space preserves adjoin urban development by design, which
compounds the hazard.
Space lands provide recreational opportunities while supporting many different
Besides open space lands, Marin County owns over 5000 additional
acres. The county is aware of the fire problem that exists. In the county’s
general plan, it states, "Fire hazards in Marin County threaten lives, property,
and the natural environment. Marin forest and chaparral areas, which have
been prevented from burning for as long as 40 years, pose a significant hazard
to scenic environments and residential communities. Many Marin homes face
an increased fire risk due to factors such as steep slopes, narrow streets,
flammable roofing materials, proximity to old and overgrown vegetation, and
distance from fire stations."
The general plan continues, "…communities located in the
urban fringe face risks in the event of a wildfire. These risks are increased
by flammable building materials, stilt and pole construction along steep slopes,
poor road access, confusing street addresses, and dense vegetation immediately
surrounding homes near the wildland."
And finally the plan says, "A major wildland fire in Marin
could cause severe damage to open space and park lands. Land would be scarred
by fire fighting techniques involving bulldozing, road cutting, and fire retardant
chemicals. Rainfall following a major fire could cause severe erosion, landslides,
and mudslides. Landslides and mudslides might endanger roads and homes and
would disrupt plant renewal by displacing topsoil. Wildland fires also threaten
residences located near forest, brush, or grassland areas. Dry natural cover
can set a home on fire during a major wildland fire and many of these homes
are surrounded by trees and brush."
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