Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority?
Currently, 19 local fire agencies provide fire protection and emergency response services to communities in Marin, but there is no single coordinating agency for wildfire prevention. The Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) would allow local fire agencies and emergency service providers, city and town governments, and county of Marin to work together as a single coordinated Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to develop and implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness initiative.
What is the benefit of coordinated wildfire prevention?
Wildfire knows no boundaries and homes, neighborhoods and communities are only as safe those surrounding and adjacent where wildfire can ignite and grow. Wildfires are occurring more frequently and recent fire seasons have been among the deadliest and most destructive on record. As we saw in Paradise, Redding, Santa Rosa and elsewhere, we need proactive steps to reduce the risk of wildfires and to be prepared in the event that our community is threatened by wildfire. MWPA will enable the 19 local fire agencies serving Marin County to work together as a single Joint Powers Authority (JPA), to ensure a cohesive and coordinated wildfire prevention and preparedness plan.
How will the MWPA be structured?
Board of Directors will consist of two elected officials from each zone plus one elected official from the small fire districts
Operations/Budget Committee will consist of eleven representatives of the Board of Directors
Advisory Committee will consist of outside affiliated organizations who can provide expert support to the JPA. An example of this is FireSAFE MARIN and Marin Municipal Water District.
What will be the focus of the MWPA?
Defensible Space around Homes, Businesses and Critical Infrastructure
Vegetation Management and Fire Hazard Reduction
Early Alerts and Organized Evacuations
How will the MWPA be funded?
MWPA would need a stable source of locally controlled funding dedicated to wildfire prevention. The Wildfire Prevention Program Budget is estimated to be approximately $20 million annually. These funds would be supplemental and could not supplant existing funding for wildfire prevention. A countywide parcel tax measure is under consideration for the March 2020 election to provide dedicated funding for the MWPA program. A local funding measure requires 66.7% approval countywide. A recent survey of Marin voters shows strong support for a wildfire prevention funding measure.
What programs would the MWPA local funding measure support?
Improving emergency alert and warning systems to enhance early alert for organized evacuations
Expanding coordinated efforts to reduce combustible plants and vegetation
Improving evacuation routes and infrastructure to enhance traffic flow and promote safe evacuations
Expanding and enhancing defensible space and home evaluations and educating homeowners about how to reduce the vulnerability of their home and neighborhood to wildfire
Providing grants and support to seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income homeowners who need assistance maintaining a defensible space, making homes fire resistant, reducing combustible vegetation, and preparing for emergencies
Creating and sustaining a coordinated local wildfire public safety and disaster preparedness program
Supporting residents to establish Firewise USA programs in neighborhoods through ongoing public education
Is there a proposed expenditure plan for the MWPA?
60% of the funding would be dedicated to four core program areas
Wildfire Detection and Evacuation Program Improvements
Grants to seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income homeowners
20% of the funding would focus on Defensible Space Evaluations. This work could be done by the MWPA with a shared service model or by the responsible fire agency.
20% of the funding would be allocated to local agencies to use for specific local wildfire mitigation program in their service area. An example of this would include addressing homeless encampments, or road widening of evacuation routes.
What is the difference between the parcel tax and the CA BOE - CALFIRE SRA fee?
All funds generated from the potential parcel tax measure would stay in Marin County and be managed through MWPA. These funds would be used for fire hazard reduction work by hand crews, contractors, goats and mechanical means, defensible space evaluations, grant program, public education, wildfire detection and evacuation improvements. All funds would stay local and could not be taken by the State or used for other purposes.
Don’t our local fire agencies already work together?
Yes. Marin County has a well-organized local mutual aid system, based on the principles of resource sharing and cooperation with a goal of providing the public with the highest level of service that no one agency is equipped to provide. These agreements include resources from all fire agencies, law enforcement, volunteer fire departments, the OES, the National Park Service (NPS), CAL FIRE, and local landowners. MWPA is designed to expand, enhance and better coordinate the services already provided by our local fire agencies and emergency service providers.
What is vegetation management?
Vegetation management refers to the process of assessing and maintaining hazardous fuels such as plants, brush, shrubs and trees to reduce the fire hazard and lessen the impacts of wildfire. MWPA will pursue multiple strategies to reduce combustible fuels, through cost-effective practices, on an ongoing basis.
What are hazardous fuels?
Hazardous fuels are defined as any kind of living or dead vegetation that is combustible and can feed a wildfire. These include invasive, unnatural, fire-prone, non-native landscapes that carry fire to structures and homes. When vegetation or fuels, accumulate, they allow fires to burn hotter, faster and with greater intensity.
What is defensible space?
Defensible space is the buffer created between a building on a property and the grass, trees, shrubs or any wildland area that surround it. Defensible space will help slow or stop the spread of wildfire and protect a home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important to help protect firefighters when they are defending homes and neighborhoods.
What do the phrases “fire hardened” and “hardening homes” mean?
Fire hardened means your home is prepared for wildfire and an ember storm. It does not mean fireproof. Home hardening addresses the most vulnerable components of your house with building materials and installation techniques that increase resistance to heat, flames, and embers that accompany wildfires.
Will goats be used to reduce vegetation and hazardous fuels?
What is the Firewise USA Program?
The Firewise Program is managed by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters. The program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. Firewise is a key component of Fire Adapted Communities, a collaborative approach that connects all those who play a role in wildfire education, planning, and action with comprehensive resources to help reduce risk. The Firewise Communities program teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action to prevent losses. FIRESafe Marin can help your neighborhood achieve Firewise USA recognition. Information can be found at www.firesafemarin.org.
How long will the parcel tax last?
The proposed tax has a 10-year sunset. The sunset clause has moved the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (CO$T) to endorse this proposed initiative.
Will employees of the MWPA be firefighters?
If any positions associated with the work being performed require sworn duties as outlined in FLSA, the MWPA will contract with local fire agencies for those personnel. At this time there are no planned sworn positions proposed. The Board will ultimately take up the question about utilizing “Fire Crews” which require a supervisor that is trained to fight fire.
How much of the budget will go towards administration?
The MWPA JPA has a cap of 10% associated with any administrative costs including salaries and benefits for administrative positions.
Will the MWPA have any pension liability?
The proposed structure would allow for the MWPA to hire contractors, employees or contract with public agencies for personnel to provide services. If MWPA hires their own employees, the proposal is to have employees on a defined contribution plan (essentially the same as a 401K in private industry).