In a Marin IJ article in August (Marin needs to see action on fire protection), Dick Spotswood summarized what needs to be done in Marin to prevent a destructive firestorm, “Only comprehensive brush-clearing and tree thinning will do the job. If not promptly accomplished, history will brand our officials asleep at the switch. It’s time for action, not talk.”
Then in the IJ in November (Readers offer suggestions on how Marin can prepare for wildfire), Spotswood posted a reader’s idea on how to get more action:
Ruth Snyder, past Mill Valley mayor and current Santa Rosa Press Democrat Editorial Board member, suggests both Marin and Sonoma mimic ideas from the Oakland Fire Safe Council: “Create a regional wildfire prevention management agency. Such an agency would have jurisdiction over both public and private land, be adequately funded and staffed with a science-based plan of action and have the authority to implement the plan.”
The big difference from our top-notch FIRESafe Marin program is that a new state-authorized countywide wildfire management agency would have direct independent authority to act. The crucial question left unanswered: Who pays for it?
While Snyder notes that FIRESafe Marin doesn’t have the “direct independent authority to act”, it seems that this is not a problem in practice. Agencies and landowners work with FIRESafe Marin across jurisdictions as seen in their goat grazing project in West Marin. The real problem in practice is funding.
The 2013 Marin IJ article (Grant to remove invasive, flammable trees could be headed back to the state) reported on a $220,000 grant to the FIRESafe Marin to remove flammable eucalyptus trees. The grant was in jeopardy, not because of red-tape, but because they didn’t have the money to front the project and then get reimbursed later as the grant required. While they have a county-wide strategic plan, this situation exposed the fact that the organization was not funded for anything even close to comprehensive action.
The board of FIRESafe Marin’s board is comprised of very experienced fire fighters and academics who have studied forestry and natural resources. The only notable exception is Honorary Chairperson Katie Rice who received degrees in “Liberal Studies and English” according to the website.
Now, Katie Rice aside, do we really need to create an agency of regional fire bureaucrats with the political power to trump our local fire experts? This is like the hackneyed plot of FBI agents forcibly taking over a case from some expert local detectives and then bungling it. Do we want to watch that movie play out in such an important arena as public safety?
So how can we fund our experts to enable them to implement their strategic plan?
Well if you live in Marin, you are probably here because of the Open Space. It is increasingly clear that Open Space near development requires maintenance to reduce the chances of a destructive firestorm. Open Space and Open Space maintenance should go hand in hand.
What can we do?
If you already donate money to fund Open Space aquisitions or a related charity like MALT, then consider splitting that donation with FIRESafe Marin. Supporting FIRESafe Marin is the logical way for Marin to move forward and preserve itself in all its natural character.