With Marin’s “Measure C” on the March 3rd ballot, it’s important to keep in mind the wildfires and decades of planning that have lead to this historic effort. Fire Safe Marin has worked for 29 years to keep Marin homeowners, landowners, private industry, and public agencies, engaged in wildfire risk reduction. The Marin Wildfire Prevention Initiative and Measure C is in many ways the culmination of Fire Safe Marin’s vision.
Since our inception in the aftermath of 1991’s firestorm in the nearby Oakland and Berkeley hills, we’ve worked with the understanding that what your neighbors do matters: a resident of Fairfax must be just as concerned about wildfire prevention efforts in Novato as they are about their neighbors across the street (Case in Point: Marin’s largest wildfire in 1923 burned from Novato all the way to Fairfax in a matter of hours).
In 1917 Marin was the first county in the US to vote to create a fire department dedicated solely to fighting wildfires (this should tell you something about our vulnerability). When that organization changed its name from Tamalpais Forest Fire District to Marin County Fire Department in 1941, their final document, A History of Marin Wildfires, noted this: “The fire season ending in December 1940, marked the first 11-year period in Marin County Fire History that Mt. Tamalpais was not the scene of a major fire.” In fact, a fire did burn on Mt Tam just four years later in 1945. Now, 75 after years have passed, that remains the last major fire in our vulnerable watershed (notwithstanding thousands of smaller wildfires since, and the 1995 Vision Fire in West Marin which destroyed 45 homes and burned more than 12,000 acres).
To better understand the evolving nature of Marin’s many hazards and risk of wildfire, we turn to the collaborative 2016 “Community Wildfire Protection Plan,” which outlines an assessment of vegetation and infrastructure, and provides a science-based framework to prioritize mitigation work and to begin tackling this enormous problem. What Fire Safe Marin has always understood is that without a cooperative and well-funded effort, like the “Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority” (and Measure C), a meaningful reduction of hazards and lowering of risk is nearly impossible. Measure C provides the funding needed to implement this plan.
We are proud of our accomplishments to date. As a small nonprofit, we routinely fight above our weight-class, and have managed millions of dollars of grant-funded projects over almost 30 years, touching every community in Marin. Marin has built the largest network of nationally recognized “FIREWISE USA” sites in the US, with 62 neighborhoods to date, and dozens more working to achieve this status. As impressive as these efforts are, they are not nearly enough.
Marin’s fire departments are tasked with fighting fires after they start – they have never been responsible for maintaining vegetation on public or private lands or upgrading homes to better withstand embers. No existing agency has had the responsibility or funding to undertake the monumental efforts needed to protect Marin’s residents, homes, and natural resources BEFORE a wildfire begins. We know that in wildfires, as in life, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Measure C is Marin’s BEST chance to execute the wildfire prevention vision that has driven Fire Safe Marin since 1991. We strongly encourage a YES vote on Measure C, Tuesday, March 3.