how I can sign up for automatic notifications about fires near me? 

In Marin, the “Alert Marin” notification system is used by all fire and law enforcement agencies to make emergency and evacuation notifications.  You must register your phone(s) and address at www.alertmarin.org.

It’s important to understand that you will NOT receive routine notifications whenever the fire department responds to a fire in your neighborhood.  This system will normally only be used when there is threat or need for evacuation.  In most cases, firefighters are able to quickly extinguish fires without the need for evacuations.

Nixle and Twitter, as well as local tv and radio, are other good sources for information also, but are not the official evacuation notification system.  

Learn more at www.firesafemarin.org/preparedness/evacuation 

Has anyone told Fire Safe Marin that it rained this week. Why are you issuing a Red Flag Warning?!

A Red Flag Warning is issued by the United States National Weather Service, not FIRESafe MARIN/.  All Red Flag Warnings are related to predicted weather and fuel moistures, and weather and fuel conditions must meet specific criteria.  A small amount of rainfall during the summer and fall months usually not increase live or dead fuel moistures significantly.   Current knowledge of fuels and fire behavior tells us that live fuel moistures can still at a critical level, and dead fuels will dry to their pre-rainfall level within 10 hours during a low humidity wind event.  

Any Red Flag Warning wind event issued for Marin has the potential to cause rapid growth and extreme fire behavior if any wildfires start.

My neighbor has a eucalyptus tree and it is an extreme fire hazard.  How can I make them remove it?

If it helps ease your nerves, you should know that the mere presence of eucalyptus trees does not necessarily indicate an extreme fire hazard.  Single specimens of most tree varieties, including many fire hazardous species, can usually be maintained in a way that minimizes the hazard.  Rememebr that tree's don't magically burst into flames, even during a wildfire.  Some type of fuel, usually on the ground, carries the fire into the tree.  Eliminating these "ladder fuels" is often more important than the tree species itself.

The blue gum eucalyptus common in Marin is considered a “fire hazardous” species, yet they can be (and often are) maintained in a state that makes them relatively fire resistant.  By removing vegetation around the base of the trees, removing the bark which peels back annually, and removing small diameter lower limbs up to  at least 1/3 of the tree’s height can make a eucalyptus tree much more resistant to igniting during a wildfire. Often times our biggest concern about these trees is the leaves that fall from them onto nearby rooftops -  not the tree itself.  Contact your local fire department or a licensed arborist for an evaluation of the tree(s) in question.

A licensed arborist should examine any trees you're concerned with and make recommendations on ways to improve the tree's health and fire-resistance.

I need to remove a dead tree or cut vegetation around my home.  Who can I hire to do this work?

Any licensed tree company or arborist should do fine for tree removals.  We don't typically recommend specific contractors, and have had good experiences with nearly every tree service you'll find in the "yellow pages" or Google.  Ensure that they are a local, licensed contractor, and carry insurance.

Grass cutting can be accomplished by most tree servcies also, however a landscaping service is fine, too.  Be sure they carry insurance.  Grass cutting should be done with string trimmers, and should occur only in mornign hours, and never on a "Red Flag Warning" day.

Our property line is 10’ from our home and there are several properties adjoining, all with overgrown vegetation.  Do our neighbors have responsibility to maintain defensible space on their land adjoining us?

Some Marin fire agencies have adopted fire code language that may require neighboring properties to provide some vegetation clearance to protect their neighbor's home.  State law does not necessarily require this.  FIRESafe MARIN encourages neighbors to work together and to grant permission to their neighbors to work on adjoining properties to gain defensible space.  Contact your local fire department for an interpretation of the fire code that applies to your neighborhood.

Can you suggest fireproof clothing including boots, head gear (helmet), fire blankets and tarps, goggles, mask, gloves fire suit etc? 

FIRESafe MARIN recommends that evacuating residents wear long cotton or wool clothing - not too tight or too loose fitting - for evacuation.  The fire resistant "Nomex" clothing worn by firefighters is expensive and largely unnecessary for evacuation.  Sturdy leather boots, leather gloves, jeans, and a heavy flannel shirt are sufficient.  A helmet from a hardware or safety store, along with tight fitting but breathable goggles are fine.  You don't need any special fire resistant varieties, unless you'll be working as a firefighter. 

Our recommendations for clothing and supplies for a wildfire "Go Kit" are available here: http://firesafemarin.org/preparedness/evacuation, and here, http://firesafemarin.org/preparedness/evacuation/evacuation-checklist

Vhen I went to purchase a Vulcan Vent (or Brand Guard, Embers Out, etc) I was told that contractors are not recommending this product or others like it because it does not really allow for air-flow and that  it is not correctly engineered.  I was told this by the person selling the product, is that correct?

This is incorrect - a half-truth at best.  Some modern houses are engineered to require a precise amount of ventilation.  Most homes in Marin are much older, and their vent openings were not calculated so precisely (if at all).  If you have a brand new home which had the ventilation calculated exactly to the square inch, then it's true, these vents might reduce airflow and require a small number of additional vents to be installed to bring the airflow back up to where it was.  Keep in mind that many of these newer homes ALREADY HAVE EMBER RESISTANT VENTS, since these vents have been in common use since 2008 on new construction.

So, yes, these vents may move slightly less air than older vents.  Many homes have more than adequate airflow, so it's not going to cause problems.  If there were inadequate airflow, it's usually quite easy to add additional vents to make up for the reduced flow through ember resistant vents.  We strongly recommend that these vents be installed on all homes in Marin's WUI and adjacent areas - they are approved by the State Fire Marshal, and any contractor that recommends otherwise is likely just unfamiliar with them or unwilling to do the extra work to add new ventilation.

I notice on your site that you recommend composite decks for fire safety. Where do you get that information? I didn’t believe you, so I took a torch to a small piece and it burned just like wood.  Why aren’t you recommending ceramic, or cement tile like FEMA?

Synthetic decking materials have proven more resistant to ignition than wood surfaces.  Taking a torch to any material is not a realistic ignition source, since wildfires typically ignite structures from firebrands or embers - with significantly different characteristics than a torch's flame.Synthetic decking materials have proven more resistant to ignition than wood surfaces.  Taking a torch to any material is not a realistic ignition source, since wildfires typically ignite structures from firebrands or embers - with significantly different characteristics than a torch's flame.

Our information comes from real-world experience and observations looking at thousands of structures which either burned - or more importantly, survived - wildfires.  Validated and peer-reviewed research at IBHS backs up our findings and observations.  See these resources:  http://www.firesafemarin.org/hardening-your-home/decks

Tile and concrete are fine choices if your building and budget can accomodate them.

I want to volunteer or help FIRESafe MARIN.  How can I help?

We recommend that you attend a FIRESafe MARIN meeting to get a sense of what we do, share you experience and see if there are volunteer or other opportunities for you to help.  Meetings are typically the second Friday of the month in Novato.  See www.firesafemarin.org/about/meetings for details.  In your own neighborhood, organizing a Firewise USA site can be a great way to get involved and make your community safer.

Is there any way for a citizen to find out if there is a Red Flag warning for Marin, other than driving by a sign posted on a street? 

FIRESafe MARIN makes every effort to send out email announcements when the National Weather Service issues a Red Flag Warning for Marin - register for our emails here.  Local newspapers and TV news outlets announce these (andcall other weather warnings) as well.  On the FIRESafe MARIN homepage you’ll find a weather section (scroll down) with a continuously updating alert image, and links to the NWS website as well.

There are several apps available for smartphones that offer to notify users when a warning is issued in their area.  These are good for all types of weather warnings issued by the NWS (eg flood, storm, fire-weather, etc).


I’m tracking hours and expenses for our Firewise committee.  Can paying someone else for work for Firewise projects on your property be included in your investment calculations?

Yes, if you pay someone else it can be listed as a cash expense.  Examples - hiring a tree company or landscaping work and maintenance (as long the work is done to remove hazardous plants or install fire-resistant plants, create a fuel break, or improve a home's fire-resistance.  You can also include the portion of a town or FIRESafe MARIN''s expenses toward community chipper days that was applied in your neighborhood.

FIRESafe MARIN   |   P.O. Box 2831  |   San Anselmo, CA 94979   |   info@firesafemarin.org

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