Emergency Medical Services |
Fire Suppression |
Emergency Command Center
Urban Search and Rescue Team |
Water Rescue Team |
Vegetation Management Program |
Repair Shop |
Emergency Medical Services
The Marin County Fire
Department has provided Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the citizens
of Marin since 1965 when a Cadillac ambulance was placed in service at
the Point Reyes Station. The community of Point Reyes, led by Waldo Giacomini,
provided funding for the first ambulance and its equipment. The American
Red Cross trained personnel assigned to the ambulance at that time in
advanced first aid. In 1977, nine firefighters from the department were
sent to Stanford University for paramedic
In April of 1978, Rescue 90 was placed in service in Point Reyes, becoming
the first paramedic rescue ambulance in the county. This "emergency
room on wheels" brought advanced life support services to West Marin.
Paramedics received over 1200 hours of training including: anatomy, physiology,
cardiac emergencies, advanced airway procedures and over fifty medications
that they could administer. To support the Paramedic Program, in 1982
all Marin County Fire Department firefighters became Emergency Medical
In 1985, in response to a request by the Ross Valley Paramedic Authority,
the Marin County Fire Department assumed administration and staffing of
Rescue 40 located at the Ross Fire Station. This Joint Powers Authority
provides paramedic services to residents and visitors of the communities
of Corte Madera, Larkspur, Kentfield, Ross, San Anselmo, Sleepy Hollow,
Fairfax, and County Service Area 27. Rescue 40 responds to approximately
1500 calls per year. The addition of Rescue 40 benefits the department
by providing a rescue unit with a higher call volume, allowing paramedics
an opportunity to maintain their vital skills.
Constantly looking to provide cutting edge EMS, in 1995 the Marin
County Fire Department trained all firefighters to use automatic defibrillation.
Each fire engine was equipped with this life saving cardiac tool which
allows first responders to convert patients in full cardiac arrest into
a life saving cardiac rhythm.
The Marin County Fire Department EMS Division administers an EMT education
program. This program allows firefighters to maintain their certification
in-house, at a lower cost than sending personnel to outside training.
The department offers EMT training to the Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Inverness,
and Tomales Volunteer Fire Departments. Personnel from the Marin Municipal
Water District, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, National Park Service, Skywalker
Ranch, and Muir Woods National Monument, also attend this monthly training.
To increase the EMS level of service in the Tomales area, the Marin
County Fire Department implemented an Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedic
engine in the fall of 1997. This brings a firefighter-paramedic and lifesaving
equipment to visitors and citizens of Tomales within minutes. ALS transport
ambulances provided under contract from Bodega Bay and Petaluma Fire Departments
support the system.
The Marin County Fire Department has implemented a Continuous Quality
Improvement Program, which provides peer review of the ALS system. New
protocols allow the paramedics to provide care for patients without base
hospital direction. This program allows the department to have continuous
monitoring, improvement, and systems analysis of the paramedic service.
In the year 2000, the department staffed a rescue unit at Stinson
Beach. This unit is staffed during the peak tourist season-Memorial Day
through Labor Day. The Marin County Fire Department operates four Paramedic
Rescue Ambulances, with a reserve rescue unit stationed in Woodacre (that
can be staffed when needed), and two ALS engines. The twenty-two paramedics
have an average of ten years of experience, many coming from high-call-
volume urban areas. The paramedics and EMTs receive extensive training
in hazardous materials, rope rescue, swift water rescue, confined space
rescue, auto extrication and multi-casualty incidents.
From the waterfront at Marin City to the ranches of Hicks Valley,
MCFD provides the highest level of structural fire protection. With the
1250 gpm pumpers, enhanced water supply systems, and the ongoing training,
damage from structure fires are minimized. If an area is known to have
a deficient water supply, water tenders are dispatched to the emergency
scene. Mutual aid is received and provided by the closest resource with
no regard to agency. Petaluma, Sausalito, Ross Valley and Novato are some
of the agencies with mutual aid agreements.
As history has taught us, Marin County has the potential for a major wildland
fire. In 1929, Mill Valley suffered a devastating fire that destroyed
119 homes. Today, that figure would be approximately 800-1000 homes within
the footprint of the 1929 fire. The factors that add up to disaster for
an urban-interface fire are all present within Marin. Steep slopes, heavy
vegetation, narrow roads only lack hot-dry weather and an ignition source
for another Oakland Hills Fire.
So what has the county done? It staffs a fleet of four wheel drive
wildland fire engines during the summer months. Seasonal fire fighters
augment the permanent staff to carry out functions such as hoselays, handline
construction, and backfires.
The county's reputation as an excellent wildland fire resource has
spread beyond the confines of the county. The department regularly dispatches
five engines with a leader, called a strike team, to several fires throughout
the state. The department also employs experts in specific command functions
that respond to fires as part of the California Interagency Incident Management
Teams. These teams are dispatched when fires overwhelm the local jurisdiction.
With experts in operations, finance, logistics, and planning, the team
plans, organizes, leads and directs thousands of firefighters in order
to suppress a fire.
Emergency Command Center
Marin County operates their own dispatching from the Woodacre Headquarters
Emergency Command Center (ECC). Not only does the department dispatch
all 6 stations but also provides the dispatching for the areas of Stinson
Beach, Bolinas, Inverness, and Skywalker Ranch. The ECC is responsible
for coordinating the daily staffing, maintaining the fire weather system,
and projecting the fire danger index during the summer months. Dispatcher
answer a majority of the phone calls providing the publics first point
of contact with the department.
The ECC also coordinates emergency response with neighboring agencies
such as the California State Parks and the United States Park Service.
The Marin County Fire Chief is the California Office of Emergency Services
(OES) Area Coordinator. Dispatch coordinates all OES mutual aid request
for both in-state and out-of-state request for assistance. All of the
ECC officers are trained to the state and national level for resource
management and deployment.
Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR)
Marin County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team is comprised of a forty-eight
member staff, all of whom are trained at least to the Rescue Systems
One Level. The team is considered a "multi-hazard" discipline, since
it may be needed for a variety of emergencies or disasters. The team
is certified as a "heavy" rescue team by the Governor’s Office of Emergency
Several members are trained as technical specialists, capable of
performing confined space rescue, water rescue, physical search and
rescue operations in collapsed structures, initial medical stabilization
of injured response personnel and trapped victims, hazardous materials
categorization, structural hazard evaluation, and stabilization of damaged
structures. The team is composed of members from the fire department
and department of public works utilizing the strengths and expertise
of both agencies.
USAR’s Five Major Functional Elements:
The Marin County USAR team is designed to be totally self-sufficient
for the first 48 hours of operation. Specialized equipment includes concrete
and steel cutting tools, breaking devices, portable generators, power
saws, drills, air bags, lighting, ropes and other technical rescue items.
Other equipment carried by the three designated rescue units includes
medical supplies, hazardous materials and radiation monitors, protective
clothing, victim locating devices, search cameras, water rescue boats,
communication equipment, and a laptop computer.
USAR’s Mission Statement:
To assist and provide the safe rescue of survivors of significant disasters
and to reduce the loss of life.
Water Rescue Team
With the lessons learned from previous floods in the County of
Marin, and what had happened in other counties with levee systems, it
was decided to add a water rescue element to the Marin County Urban Search
and Rescue Team.
All of the members from the water rescue team went to a week long
class called Swiftwater Rescue Technician 1 and 2. Further training included
inflatable rescue boat operations, personal watercraft operations, technical
animal rescue, night river rescue training, and aquatic helicopter rescue
for the team includes: one rigid-hull inflatable rescue boat, two personal
watercraft, personal protective equipment for each member, and technical
On February 5, 1998, the Water Rescue Team went to work for the first
time during the "Power Incident" at the PG&E sub-station in Novato.
A levee failure near Highway 37 created a ten acre lake that was endangering
the PG&E substation that supplies power to ninety percent of Marin
County. The depth of the lake varied between four and ten feet and there
were two foot high waves on what is normally a cow pasture. The team’s
primary role was to provide water safety for the crews working on or near
the water’s edge.
During the second day of the incident, the team’s responsibilities
were expanded. With the reports of an eight foot tide at the Golden Gate
Bridge, the team was requested to inspect the surrounding levees for potential
dangers. During that inspection, 3 areas where the levee was being breached
were found, and several areas where the water would soon be going over
the levees were discovered. With the potential of the water raising up
to three feet, this created a significant problem.
Both of the Water Rescue Team boats were used to ferry hand crews
and sandbags to the levees. An
additional boat and operator were provided by the Marin Municipal Water
District. Before the day was over, 32 hand crew members and approximately
1,000 sandbags where shuttled to the trouble spots in the levees. The
Water Rescue Team remained committed to the incident for four days working
day and night shifts. The feedback from the hand crews and management
team was all positive. They expressed an increased level of comfort while
working near the water. Never before have they had a Water Rescue Team
in the water while they were working on the water’s edge. After the Power
Incident, it will be a standard throughout the state to have a Water Rescue
Team on site when crews are working in a water environment. It was an excellent
opportunity for the team to apply what it had learned and find areas that
The Marin County Fire Department Bureau of Prevention and Investigation
supervised by the Fire Marshal is charged with two primary functions aimed
at minimizing or preventing damage to life and assets as a result of fire.
These functions are:
- Implementation of required fire safe and law enforcement sections
of the Public Resources Code (PRC) in the State Responsibility Lands
(SRA) within the County. These activities include managing the residential
wildfire hazard reduction programs, new land development fire safe standards,
monitoring high voltage power line compliance, and investigate the cause,
origin and responsible act of all SRA vegetation fires.
- The Bureau is responsible for fire investigation and fire and life
safety programs in the MCFD direct
areas. These include commercial occupancy permitting and annual inspection,
public education, and individual hazard abatements. The Bureau also
responsible for issuing open burning permits in compliance with Bay
Area Air Quality Management District, California Fire Code, and PRC
Additional responsibilities include: Department Information Officer,
fire investigations for the Point Reyes National Seashore Lands, Bolinas
Fire District, Inverness Public Utilities District and the Stinson Beach
Volunteer Fire Department.
Vegetation Management Program
The Marin County Fire Department has treated thousands of acres
of hazardous vegetation in the past. With the implementation of the California
Fire Plan, a forester was hired to implement a Vegetation Management Program.
The program is for communities, ranchers, and natural resource managers
who wish to strengthen their protection against wildfire.
Benefits of the Vegetation Management Program include:
- The State of California indemnifies participants against damage
- Up to 90% of project costs are covered.
- Resource specialists are provided to plan and implement projects.
The forester writes Vegetation Management Plans, which include: public
notification plans, smoke management plans, environmental impact reviews,
and more. Plans are designed to implement the best management practice
to reduce hazardous fuels by three fuel management approaches.
The three fuel management approaches:
- Residential fuel treatments that are used to create defensible
space around structures and neighborhoods.
- Fuelbreaks are corridors along roads or ridges where vegetation
is controlled. Fuelbreaks reduce fire intensity and rate of spread allowing
fires to be controlled.
- Fuel reduction zones are broad, non-linear areas where
natural fuels are reduced.
Excellent examples of the Vegetation Management Program are the
Kent Woodlands I-Zone Project and the Marinview Project.
fire service today is markedly different from the service that existed
100, 50, or even 10 years ago. Not only have the apparatus and techniques
changed, but also the personnel and role of the fire service. With the
advent of formalized education programs, a firefighter has been elevated
from that of a mere doer to that of a technician. Increased demands for
service have expanded the role of the fire service into areas beyond fire
protection. New responsibilities include: hazardous materials, urban search
and rescue, and advanced life support.
It is the responsibility of the Marin County Fire Department’s Training
Division to meet the ever-changing needs
of today’s fire service. Fifty years ago, department training was limited
to the equipment and techniques utilized to combat wildland fires. Today,
in addition to instructing numerous firefighting skills, the training
program includes lessons on hazardous materials, urban, water and confined
space rescue, rope rescue, advanced and basic life support, automatic
defibrillation, and cardio pulmonary resuscitation.
As the professionalism of firefighters continues to evolve, career
ladders that identify required skills must also evolve. Through the leadership
and recommendations of the Marin County Training and
Education Committee, the Training Division maintains career ladders for
all positions. These career ladders identify training standards for all
personnel and guarantee minimum levels of proficiency. Additionally, these
career ladders have led to the development of many in-house training courses
that include: a basic fire academy for new employees, a wildland fire
academy for seasonal firefighters and other agencies, a water tender operations
course, and an off-road driving course.
The Woodacre Repair Shop is responsible for the preventative maintenance
and ongoing repairs for the entire fire department
fleet. There are over 45 pieces of apparatus that must be maintained
at the highest level of service in order to response at a moments notice.
The department's mechanic is capable of performing everything from routine
maintenance to complete overhauls. He attends the Fire Apparatus Mechanic
Academy annually and is responsible for the very low amount of vehicle
PreFire Management is a new program being implemented by the
Marin County Fire Department. The program was born from the State Board
of Forestry's 1996 California Fire Plan.
Dramatic and damaging fires like the Mount Vision and the Oakland
Hills have become almost yearly events. Within the state, from 1984 to
1993, over 7000 homes were destroyed by wildland fire, 75 lives lost,
and over 3-billion dollars expended in structure loss and suppression
cost. The goal of the Fire Plan is to reduce citizen loss and government
cost from wildland fires.
To accomplish this goal, the Marin County Fire Department hired a
fire captain specialist to assess wildland fire hazards in the county.
The four factors that make up the assessment are: hazardous fuel loading,
severe fire weather, assets at risk, and past levels of service. Using
new computer technology, each of these factors will be mapped to indicate
areas of high risk and high hazard.
Hazardous fuels are the vegetation that feeds a wildfire. Due to the
aggressive fire suppression policies during the last fifty years in
fuels have been allowed to accumulate to dangerous proportions. When fires
ignite in these tinderboxes, they burn more rapidly and with greater intensity.
Through the assessment process, the location and density of these fuels
will be evaluated.
Weather is the biggest factor of the fire equation. Since weather
is a dynamic process, little can be done to alter its effects. This assessment
is aimed at a
understanding of effects weather has on fuel and direction of fire spread
as it relates to asset damage. The department intends to determine which
locations suffer extreme fire weather with the most frequency based on
aspect, historical weather from five fire weather stations, canopy sheltering,
and marine inversion layers.
primary goal of fire protection in Marin is to safeguard the wide range
of assets found across wildland areas. There are several categories of
assets listed in the state’s Fire Plan, such as: structures, air quality,
water quality, infrastructure, etc. Some of these categories are tangible
such as "structures" while others are harder to evaluate such
as "air quality." Each category was compared to fuel loading
to indicate overall risk.
The Level of Service (LOS) is an assessment that focuses
on identifying areas with the potential of unacceptable loss and high-cost
fires. For this assessment, the department created a new
model. There are several components that define an unacceptable
loss and high suppression cost fire. The department narrowed down four
components that are common factors with damaging-costly fires. They are
potential structure loss, travel times to the fire, historical fire occurrence,
and resistance to control.
The assessment was performed using advanced mapping analysis using
Geographic Information Systems or GIS. GIS is a method of analysis that
allows the end user to overlay maps. To verify that projects are valuable,
models of fire spread are created.
Three dimensional terrain model with the FARSITE fire spread simulator
model for Cascade Canyon...roll cursor over the image to see flames.
With the completion of the assessment that identifies high-hazard
areas in Marin County, vegetation management projects
will be designed to reduce the hazard. Prescribed burning, chipping, and
focused public education are a few examples of projects aimed at protecting
assets at risk. The assessment identifies Marin County
stakeholders, defined as any person, agency or organization
with a particular interest (a stake) in fire safety and protection of
assets from wildland fires. Stakeholders will play a vital role in designing
and implementing fire hazard reduction projects.