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Wildfire Preparedness A New Approach - 2019

At the request of a Marin Post reader, attached is the updated version of the Marin County Civil Grand Jury's Report -- Wildfire Preparedness A New Approach.

CLICK HERE FOR A PDF OF THE DOCUMENT

A Summary of the Report's findings are as follows:

Marin faces unprecedented danger to life and property from wildfire. The Grand Jury reviewed the conditions that make us vulnerable to wildfire, assessed the plans currently in place to correct them, and recommends a new approach to meeting these challenges.

Four areas of vulnerability stand out:

Vegetation Management: Fuel conditions make Marin extremely vulnerable to wildfires. Through a combination of aggressive fire suppression and environmental policies, overgrown vegetation has created hazardous fuel loads throughout the county. The policies and procedures intended to manage and reduce vegetation are inadequate. Too few inspectors are available to determine compliance, and enforcement is too slow.

Educating the Public: The public’s ignorance of how to prepare for and respond to wildfires makes Marin vulnerable. Most people do not know how to make their homes fire resistant or create defensible space by cutting back vegetation. Many have failed to collect emergency supplies or plan for evacuations. Nearly 90% of the county’s residents have not signed up to receive emergency alerts. Programs to educate the public for wildfire are not well known and are offered infrequently. The county’s only organization assigned to educate the public about wildfires is understaffed.

Alerts: The two crucial emergency alert systems in the county have a flaw that restricts their reach. Both Alert Marin and Nixle, as opt-in systems, warn only those who have registered.

Evacuations: Evacuation planning is also a grave concern. Marin’s topography creates great danger for those who live far from the main evacuation routes. Most connecting roads are narrow and overgrown. Some are constricted by traffic calming obstacles such as concrete medians, and bump outs which impede traffic in emergency evacuations. Plans to ease emergency traffic flow such as traffic-light sequencing and the conversion of two-way roads to one-way flow corridors are years away from implementation. Marin’s roads lack the capacity for a mass evacuation in personal vehicles. Public transit is a neglected piece of evacuation preparedness and is underused. Inertia and complacency have prevented a proactive and nimble response to wildfire dangers.

The Grand Jury Proposes: The creation of a joint powers authority to coordinate a comprehensive, consistent approach to pre-ignition planning funded by a ¼ cent sales tax. This new approach will remedy the gaps in our preparedness and demonstrate our political will to improve wildfire safety in Marin.