The Marin Wildfire Protection Agency Authority (MWPA) was created with the passage of Proposition C on March 3, 2020. The Agency MWPA is a Joint Powers Authority composed of 17 taxing authorities that represent all of Marin with the exception of Belvedere and Tiburon. The MWPA was formed to develop and implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention, education, and emergency preparedness plan throughout most of Marin County. Key elements of this program include: fuel reduction; improved wildfire detection, warnings and evacuation routes; low income grants; public education; defensible space evaluations; and local wildfire mitigation.
The MWPA organizational structure includes three tiers. The Board of Directors is composed of one elected official from each of the 17 Agencies, the Operations Committee is made up of a combination of fire officials and town managers from the Agencies and the Technical Advisory Committee has Agency representation plus a variety of stakeholders such as Fire Safe Marin, environmental organizations, Marin County Open Space District, Marin Municipal Water District and others. An important advisory group is the Ecologically Sound Practices Partnership which is a collaboration between the fire authorities and climate and environmental organizations to mitigate the risk of wildfires wisely. The coalition works as advisors to the fire professionals, defining best environmental practices to guide the implementation of the wildfire prevention plans and offering expertise and recommendations on specific projects.
The MWPA Board of Director held its second meeting on June 18, 2020. The agenda and minutes can be found on the organization’s website marinwildfire.org. The Board addressed several administrative issues at this meeting including: nomination and selection of Bruce Goines as President and Denis Rodoni as vice-president, review of proposed bylaws, update on the Executive Officer selection process, application process for the Citizens Oversight Committee, and adoption of a budget. The budget intentionally limits first year spending to $8,490,418 which is approximately one half of anticipated revenue in order to create a surplus so that the Agency will not need to borrow funds for future operations. The first tax payments will not be received until December, so the Agency will fund its operations with a one time bridge loan from the County of Marin.
The new budget creates several important programs. The first is the Defensible Space and Home Hardening Program in which each jurisdiction will conduct comprehensive fire safety evaluations. The second major program provides funding for local jurisdictions to address the unique fire safety needs of their community. These projects must be consistent with the mission and purpose of the MWPA and provide a higher level of service thanwas previously available. Examples of potential projects include but are not limited to: Ignition Reduction Efforts, CommunityWildfire Demonstration Gardens, Community Wildfire Home Hardening Demonstration Props, Electronic Message Boards, Essential Facility Hardening Projects, Fuel Crew Expansion, additional targeted vegetation management, street widening for choke point reduction, evacuation drills, NOAA Weather Radios, Cost-share programs for resident home hardening for vegetation removal projects, or the expansion and acceleration of any of the other programmatic areas identified within the JPA Core or Defensible Space and Home Hardening.
The Board also approved programs with countywide benefit. These include a number of public education projects to be carried out by Fire Safe Marin (FSM). The centerpiece of this program is a monthly online webinar covering a variety of fire prevention and protection topics targeting homeowners. Please subscribe to the FSM newsletter . FSM will also develop a bilingual training program and host several community workshops next year assuming Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. In addition, FSM will manage a curbside pickup chipper program for all of the Marin Firewise Sites and designated areas in each of the 17 Agency jurisdictions, a Red Flag Warning pilot program and a NOAA weather radio pilot. Warning signs will be posted at the entrances of participating Firewise Sites on Red Flag days and NOAA weather radios will be strategically distributed throughout the county to test their efficiency as back up alert and warning systems in the event of a power failure or non-existent cell phone coverage. Finally, the Board approved funding for a major study to improve our evacuation capabilities. A more detailed description of these projects can be found on the MWPA website as part of the Board of Directors meeting packet for June 18, 2020.