Living With Fire: 2-Hour Community Education Seminars
Living With Fire is a wildfire preparedness education program developed by FIRESafe MARIN in conjunction with the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association, Marin County Fire Prevention Officers Asscoiation, and wildfire and home hardening experts. Presented in 30, 60, or 90 minute formats, this program will cover:
- Personal Preparedness, Safety, and Evacuations
- Home Hardening and Reducing Structural Ignitions
- Defensible Space and Firescaping
- Community and Neighborhoods Preparedness: Firewise USA
View upcoming seminars, dates, and times
Attendees give an overwhelmingly positive response to this program:
"Thank you for an Outstanding Presentation"
"There is nothing like hearing this information from those who actually have experienced fires and disasters to drive the points home. There were many wonderful comments from the attendees who seem truly inspired to take action. We were all impressed look forward to continued learning opportunities from all of you."
-Vicki in San Geronimo
Living with Wildfire was succinct, practical, focused, expert. It's one of the best I've seen"
- Rebecca in Sausalito
LIVING WITH FIRE Companion Booklet
Download a PDF copy of our in-depth guide to "Liign With Fire in marin County, CA." This 55 page booklet was crearted with a grant form CAL FIRE in 2019, and was mailed to 55,000 high risk WUI addresses in Marin. Print copies are available to attendees of our popular "Living With Fire" education seminars.
Download the 2019 Living With Fire booklet here.10.27 MB
A Countywide Fire Prevention & Mitigation Initiative
To address Marin’s need for coordinated action to reduce wildfire risk, local fire agencies, municipal and county governments, and FIRESafe MARIN have proposed creation of a new joint powers authority (JPA): Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA).
Based on recommendations in the 2019 Marin Civil Grand Jury Report on Wildfire Preparedness, 2018 “Lessons Learned from North Bay Fire Siege“ report, and 2016 Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), MWPA will focus on creating and sustaining coordinated local wildfire safety and preparedness programs. The initiative will fund accelerated wildfire hazard reduction efforts and address needs identified existing plans including the 2016 Marin County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Building upon lessons learned from recent catastrophic events, MWPA will deliver enhanced resources to local agencies to inform, engage and prepare the public and reduce wild land fire hazards to local residents.
Key elements include:
- Early Alert & Evacuation Safety Improvements
- Hazard Reduction & Vegetation Management
- Expanded Public Education
- Defensible Space Management Programs
- Specific Local Community Project Funding
Download the MWPA fact sheet:
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff
PG&E is expanding and enhancing their programs to reduce wildfire risk by adopting a “Public Safety Power Shutoff” program. Beginning in 2019, electric lines that pass through certain high fire-threat areas in Marin and California may be shut down during extreme fire-weather event to prevent ignition of new fires.
Learn more about this program and sign up for alerts from PG&E.
FIRESafe MARIN strongly recommends that all Marin residents prepare for power outages before and during wildfires. We recommend the purchase and installation, at a minimum, of:
- Battery powered AM/FM/Weather radio
- Uninterruptible Power Supplies(UPS) for home telephones and internet/routers.
- Battery Backups for Garage door openers.
- Permanently (professionally) installed home generators
AM/FM Weather Radio
FIRESafe MARIN recommends that all Marin residents purchase and learn how to use a battery powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather radio. Some models can be charged via built-in solar panels or hand cranks for continued operations during long power outages. Models from Midland and Eton are highly recommended.
NOAA Weather Radio is an automated 24-hour network of VHF FM weather radio stations in the United States that broadcast weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office. Marin authorities may send out evacuation messages via weather radios. The National Weather Service sends out Red Flag Warnings and other extreme weather warnings by NOAA Weather Radio. Some models have the ability to sound an alert and flash lights when a warning is transmitted.
Monitor local radio stations like KCBS, KGO, KQED and KWMR for fire and emergency information, especially when other communication sources are unavailable due to power outages or infrastructure damage.
INSTALL BATTERY BACKUPS FOR GARAGE DOORS AND COMMUNICATIONS
It's very common for the power to go out before a fire strikes, since fire and winds can damage electrical infrastructure. You need to be prepared to communicate and escape, even without power. How will you receive warning at night if the power is out, and how will you open your garage door to evacuate if there is no power?
For garage doors, a battery backup should be installed. They typically cost less than $100, and can be installed by homeowners.
Check with your garage door opener manufacturer to see if they make a battery specific to your opener model, although universal models are available.
For home phones and internet connections, a "UPS" Uninterruptible Power Supply is a good option (link is for Amazon, however they are available locally, in-stock at Best Buy, Costco, and other electronics stores).
The larger the UPS is, the longer it will last when the power goes out (consider the 1500VA model, about $150). Consider keeping one dedicated to your home phone, and another dedicated to your internet cable modem. A 1500VA model will last about 2 hours when attached to a cable modem and router, and a home phone may last up to 24 hours, depending on usage.
Please consult with the manufacturer for specifics and installation instructions. Test regularly to confirm function.
Backup electric generators can be a part of your preparedness plan during wildfires, Public Safety Power Shutdowns, and other power loss events.
Backup electric generators operate as a stand-alone power source and are not connected to PG&E's power grid. Generators are typically powered by natural gas, gasoline, propane or diesel fuel. Solar systems typically do not provide power during outages, unless equipped with a battery storage system and special equipment to create a home-grid.
FIRESafe MARIN does not recommend the operation of standalone, gas powered generators during Red Flag Warnings or other fire weather events. A permanently (professionally) installed, propane or natural gas powered generator is safer and less likely to spark a fire or expose residents to dangerous combustion gasses.
How to Operate a Generator Safely
- Never run a generator in an enclosed space or indoors. Most generator-related injuries and deaths involve CO poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially enclosed spaces. That includes the basement or garage, spaces that can capture deadly levels of carbon monoxide. Always place the generator at least 20 feet from the house with the engine exhaust directed away from windows and doors.
- If you’re using a generator, ensure your home has working, battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors. A carbon monoxide alarm provides a layer of defense against potentially deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Don’t run a portable generator exposed in the rain. You can buy tents for generators that keep them shielded but well-ventilated, available online and at home centers and hardware stores.
- Before refueling, turn off a gas-powered generator and let it cool. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts can ignite. Allowing the engine to cool also reduces the risks of burns while refueling. FIRESafe MARIN recommends permanently (professionally) installed propane or natural gas powered generators to improve safety.
- Extra diesel or gasoline must be stored properly. When you think you’ll need to use the generator for an extended time, you’ll want extra fuel on hand. Be sure to store fuel only in an ANSI-approved container in a cool, well-ventilated place.
- Don’t store gasoline near any potential sources of heat or fire, or inside the house.
- Adding stabilizer to the fuel in the can will help it last longer.
- Avoid electrical hazards. If you don’t yet have a transfer switch, you can use the outlets on the generator—providing you follow certain precautions. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be a heavy-duty one for outdoor use, rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. First check that the entire cord is free of cuts and that the plug has all three prongs, critical to protect against a shock if water has collected inside the equipment.
- Install a transfer switch before the next storm. This critical connection will cost from $500 to $900 with labor for a 5,000-rated-watt or larger generator. A transfer switch connects the generator to your circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances while avoiding the glaring safety risk of using extension cords. Most transfer switches also help you avoid overload by displaying wattage usage levels.
- Don’t attempt to backfeed your house. Backfeeding means trying to power your home’s wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This reckless and dangerous practice presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices, so you could end up frying some of your electronics or starting an electrical fire.
PG&E Generator Information
Download the PG&E Generator Safety Sheet
Download the IBHS Wildfire Home Hardening Retrofit Guide for California and Marin.FIRESafe MARIN has been awarded a grant by CSAA Insurance Group to develop a custom home hardening education program and guidebook for California Residents. Check back late fall 2019 for more information and to register for a Home Hardening education seminar! The Retrofit Guide available here for download is courtesy of IBHS, the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety, and is he top resource available today for homeowners interested in retrofitting existing homes.
Research and post-fire assessments have shown that property owners can protect their homes and businesses against wildfire by addressing three clear sources of vulnerability: materials and design features used in building the home or business, the landscaping vegetation located immediately adjacent to the home or business, and the general vegetation and other combustible materials and items on the property surrounding the home or business. Each of these sources can be dealt with through maintenance, appropriate choices in building materials, design improvements, and vegetation management.
Making your home or business and community better able to survive a wildfire is a process that will be well worth the effort. Some projects can be done in a weekend, although it is important to remember that routine maintenance must be part of any long-term plan to reduce the vulnerability of your home or business to wildfire.
This guide was created specifically for Californians and considers appropriate building styles and construction materials, common topographical features, and other factors. While reducing the vulnerability of your home or business to wildfire begins with you, a community-wide approach to fire protection will be the most effective, so please share this guide with friends and neighbors. This guide will provide information that will help your home or business and your community prepare for and survive a wildfire.
Reducing the Vulnerability of Your Home or Business: An Overview of this Guide
Wildfires can be difficult to control. What is controllable is how you prepare your home or business for wildfire before it threatens. Ultimately, the difference between survival and destruction are the steps you take to reduce the opportunity for the initial ignition of your home or business. There is an explicit link between the selected vegetation, its placement and management in the area surrounding a building, often referred to as “defensible space,” and construction materials and building design. Survivability of a building will depend on creating and maintaining an effective defensible space on the property and on careful selection of building materials and construction design features.
The ignition of a building during a wildfire can occur in one of three ways. These include exposure to wind-blown embers (also known as “firebrands”), direct contact by flames, or a radiant heat exposure (radiant heat is the heat felt standing near a burning object, such as a campfire; but during a wildfire, the heat source could include burning items such as a woodpile, tool shed and/or a large shrub). Of these, exposure to wind-blown embers is considered the most important. Wind-blown embers generated by the burning wildland vegetation, or other burning buildings or structures, can land on or near your home or business and ignite it either directly or indirectly. Examples of a direct ember ignition include ember entry through a vent or open window with subsequent ignition of combustible materials or furnishings inside the building. Direct ignition by embers also can occur through sufficient ember accumulation on combustible materials such as a wood shake roof, on combustible decking, or immediately adjacent to combustible materials such as siding. Examples of an indirect exposure include ember accumulation and ignition of vegetation or other combustible materials (e.g., a woodpile or shed) located near your home or business, with subsequent ignition of a building component by a radiant and/or direct flame contact exposure. With inadequate defensible space, the wildfire could burn directly to your home or business and ignite an exterior component, or break the glass in a window and ultimately burn into the interior of the building. Developing and maintaining an effective defensible space will minimize the chance of this happening.
Once homes and other structures ignite and burn, they will become a source of embers and threaten other homes and buildings. Depending on building-to-building spacing and topographical features, one wildland fire-to-building ignition can result in additional ignitions by building-to-building fire spread. Building-to-building ignitions can result from embers, direct flame contact and/ or radiant heat exposures. The potential damage from radiant heat will depend on the level and duration of the exposure. The radiant heat exposure from a burning building will be longer than that from a burning shrub.
This guide provides information for reducing the vulnerability of your home or business to wildfire. Vulnerable parts of a building include the roof, the area immediately adjacent to the building and under any attached deck, vents and other openings on the exterior walls, gutters, decks and siding. Specific details on reducing the vulnerability of your home or business will be provided.
Information courtesy of Insurance Institute for Building & Home Safety (IBHS)