San Rafael’s fire department is responsible for fire protection in the Forbes Firewise area. (A map of our area is available here.) In 2021, San Rafael has ramped up its fire prevention efforts substantially, thanks in part to the taxpayer funding enabled by the passage of Measure C and the coordination from the newly formed Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority.
In August 2020, San Rafael adopted its Wildfire Prevention and Protection Action Plan, which is available at this link: https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/wildfire-action-plan/. The Plan covers areas designated to be within the high-risk Wildfire Urban Interface (WUI) as well as residences located outside the WUI. Within the Forbes Firewise area, some residences on the northern side of Forbes Avenue are within the WUI, while those on the south side generally are not. To determine if your house is located in the WUI, you can enter your address on this website.
As one step to implement the measures outlined in its Plan, in February 2021, the City amended several of its ordinances regarding vegetation management. Below are some highlights:
The regulations contain other detailed requirements. The municipal code provisions are available here.
While the fire department can grant exemptions, violation of the regulations is a misdemeanor. If a resident fails to remove vegetation as required, the fire department may do so at the resident’s expense.
Thanks to MWPA funding, member agencies have hired defensible-space inspectors/evaluators who are fanning out across the county to perform individual evaluations to help residents identify ways to create defensible space around their homes. San Rafael’s inspectors have already started visiting areas of the City. There is no master schedule, but the general plan is to visit neighborhoods prior to their scheduled chipper weeks, so that residents can perform vegetation removal coordinated with the chipper schedule.
We Got Certified!
We have a couple of exciting updates. The Forbes Firewise group was officially recognized by FIREWISE USA in late December. With that step behind us, we will move forward this year to bring more educational content and activities to our 185 homes to make our neighborhood safer.
As part of this recognition, we received two Firewise street signs that we plan to install in the neighborhood to bring more attention to fire safety. Stay tuned for updates on that.
We have contact information (email addresses) for about 40% of the homes in our area. If you have neighbors who have not yet signed up for our mailing list, please encourage them to do so. They can sign up easily by going to our website at http://forbesfirewise.org and clicking on the “Sign up” link on the home page.
Webinar: When we think about fire risk, many of us worry about the open spaces around our neighborhood. But the reality is that most homes that burn in a wildfire burn because of live embers blown by high winds. Those embers lodge in nooks and crannies around your home and ignite the structure. This area, from 0 to 5 feet around your home, is referred to as “Zone Zero.” This should be your first focus when trying to protect your home.
This Tuesday, there is a free webinar sponsored by FIRESafe Marin in which we will learn about Zone Zero measures we all can take. The webinar information provided by FIRESafe Marin is set forth below:
Free Webinar -- Zone Zero: Protect Your Home from Embers
Tuesday, February 23 at 6 pm
Jack Cohen, Fire Scientist, retired US Forest Service Research
Todd Lando, Battalion Chief, and Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Specialist
Steve Quarles, Fire Scientist, retired IBHS
When: February 23, 2021, 06:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Zone 0 - Ground Zero When Protecting Your Home From Embers
Join on Facebook live stream or via Zoom here:
We hope you all will have a chance to attend the webinar.
Wildfire Risks in Our Open Space
Many of us are concerned about the wildfire risks posed by the open space that surrounds our neighborhood, from San Rafael Hill on the east, the ridgeline to the north and the cemetery and Red Hill to the west. We would like to learn what steps our local agencies are taking to manage the vegetation in these areas. Our Firewise group is in contact with the local agencies about this. This includes the City of San Rafael.
Tomorrow, there is a webinar sponsored by FIRESafe Marin in which we will learn how Marin County and the Open Space District are managing County parks and lands to reduce fire risks. The webinar information provided by FIRESafe Marin is set forth below:
Free Webinar: Managing Vegetation in Marin's Open Space
Tuesday, December 15 at 6 pm
Join Mike Swezy, Marin Conservation League, and Max Korten, director Marin County Parks and Open Space District to learn how our public land stewards reduce fuel, improve environmental health and conduct long-term maintenance projects.
When: December 15, 2020, 06:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Vegetation Management in Marin's Open Space
Join via Zoom here:
Also, you may be interested to know that our Forbes Firewise group has recently launched a website, at http://forbesfirewise.org. It provides an easy way to get acquainted with the principles of becoming a fire-adaptive community and protecting your home from wildfires.
A Successful Chipper Day
On our very first chipper day, 13 of our members signed up to have piles of vegetation chipped and removed, all for free. As a result, 43 cubic yards of hazardous vegetation was removed from our neighborhood. The chipper day was sponsored by FIRESafe Marin and the new Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority. Nevertheless, we receive credit for the financial cost, against our annual Firewise investment requirement. This event counted for $1,625 against our annual requirement of $4,700, so quite a success!
Thank you to all who participated.
San Rafael and Wildfire Safety
This is short notice, but the San Rafael Fire Department is hosting an online forum tonight at 6 pm regarding their response to recent fire dangers. It will be on YouTube. You can submit questions in advance. You can read all about it here: https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/event/wildfire-safety-forum/
Second, last week FIRESafe Marin hosted a webinar on How to Survive a Wildfire. This is a must-watch if you have never seen it! The session was recorded and you can view the recording at your convenience using this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbUtlXjBbbc
Additional FIRESafe Marin webinars are available on their website at: https://www.firesafemarin.org/living-with-fir
Forbes Chipper Day: September 23, 2020
We are pleased to announce that FireSafe Marin and the new Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority have scheduled a free “chipper day” for us. What’s a “chipper day”? It’s a great opportunity to do extra pruning and clearing without having to dispose of the collected material yourself. See the attached document for full details.
Our chipper day is Wednesday, September 23. Think that’s too late in the season? Remember that the Wine Country fires were in October and the Paradise fire was in November. By clearing brush and pruning trees, we can make the neighborhood safer for everyone.
Online registration for the event is required and will become available around Wednesday, September 8. We’ll send you a reminder email at that time.
Please reply to this email if you have any questions. And if you'd like to get more involved in our overall efforts, by all means reply and let us know!
A Progress Report
To Our Firewise Neighbors,
Here’s an update on our progress towards becoming an official Firewise community.
Did you know that Marin has more Firewise Neighborhoods than anywhere else in the country? There are now 70 with more to come. The nearest one is Rafael Highlands. Also, the Racket Club area is in the process of becoming recognized.
We were delayed but not discouraged by our shelter-in-place order. We had originally scheduled the neighborhood Risk Assessment walks for March 21 and 29. We finally did our walkabouts on June 12 and 19 with a limited number of walkers so that we could socially distance. Our walks were led by John Hansen and Kathleen Cutter, the leaders of the Firewise program under the auspices of FireSafe Marin and by Sean Rule, San Rafael’s vegetation management specialist. Kate, Max and Pat participated in both walks and were joined on one of the walks by Leslie and Steve LaskinReese, Henk Peeters, Jim Rehkopf, Patricia Theiss-Nyland, Stan and Mariana Stefanic, and Lisa Brow.
As part of the Forbes Corridor Firewise application to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), we need to complete five tasks:
1. Form a board
2. Create a Risk Assessment
3. Develop a Three-Year Action Plan
4. Conduct educational outreach
5. Make a wildfire risk-reduction investment – of time or money.
We have a board of three which will be expanded soon. Pat and Max are hard at work drafting our Risk Assessment and Action Plan. We already completed our educational event, with our inaugural meeting in February. The next step will be documenting our “Wildfire Risk Reduction Investment.” Stay tuned for more information about how we will gather information about the efforts we know we are all making to reduce our fire risk.
While we are moving forward with these tasks, we are also planning to coordinate a “chipper day” where vegetation you remove from your property will be mulched into a chipper provided at no cost by FireSafe Marin and the new Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA). We will give you plenty of notice of this event, so stay tuned for details.
We plan to send regular updates about our progress. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions.
If you have neighbors who have not yet signed up to receive updates from us, please encourage them to do so by sending their contact information to this email address.
Risk Assessment: Rescheduled
Forbes Firewise Neighbors,
We are finally able to get back on track for our Firewise Risk Assessment - just in time for wildfire season. We have again planned two assessment walks:
This Friday, June 12 at 4:15 pm
And Friday, June 26 at 10:00 am
Because of social distancing requirements, we can only invite five residents to walk with us so we are inviting our most interested neighbors on a first come, first serve basis.
As you will remember, the Risk Assessment is the first step in becoming a certified Firewise Neighborhood. During this assessment, we will walk the neighborhood with our walk leaders, John Hansen of Firewise Marin and Sean Rule from the SRFD, to identify the primary risks that we might be able to address in our Firewise action plan; we will not be assessing individual properties at all.
Please let us know via return email if you can join us on either of these dates. Meeting details will be sent to those who reply.
COVID-19 Delays Launch Plans
We had scheduled our risk assessment walk-arounds for March 21 and March 29. Unfortunately, COVID hit and we had to cancel these events. This has slowed our entire plan for getting the group up and running, since the risk assessment is a fundamental building block of the firewise effort.
We will hunker down and reschedule this event as soon as conditions permit.
Launch Event at San Rafael City Hall
Today, we hosted our first public event to kick off the Forbes firewise effort. We had a good turnout of around 25 people. John Hansen of FIRESafe Marin gave a one-hour presentation on wildfire safety. He introduced us to the main principles of vegetation management and home hardening. Kate Colin, Pat Randolph and Max Thelen, the group's organizers, spoke about their goals for the Forbes Firewise group and outlined their next steps, including performing a neighborhood risk assessment, developing an action plan and preparing the application to file with Firewise USA.
The event flyer was dropped off at all 185 homes in our area to encourage people to come.