frequently asked questions
What are the challenges facing Marin County in terms of wildfire?
This fire season we have all experienced a sober reminder of the constant threat posed by wildfire. From the recent devastating fires in Sonoma, and here at the coast in Marin, to the constant threat of fire-related power outages, we are all forced to confront the reality that recent fire seasons have been longer, hotter and among the deadliest and most destructive on record.
Why is Marin particularly vulnerable?
Marin’s lush vegetation and abundant open space near areas of development create increased risk of wildfire. In fact, several published studies following the devastating and fatal wildfires that ravaged Sonoma, Napa, Lake counties and Paradise, suggest that nearly identical fire conditions exist here in Marin. While Marin has been lucky to avoid a fire ignition leading to a major wildfire, we cannot rely on good fortune alone.
What plans are in place to make sure Marin is prepared for potential wildfires?
We cannot eliminate the risk of wildfire. However, coordinated strategies can significantly reduce the threat of wildfire and ensure we are prepared in the unfortunate event of a wildfire in our community. Maintaining defensible space around homes and critical infrastructure, reducing combustible vegetation, and planning for organized evacuations in an emergency are proven approaches to protecting lives and property from wildfire. While Marin’s local fire and emergency service agencies are prepared as first responders, there is currently no coordinated program for proactive wildfire prevention, preparedness and education.
What is the benefit of coordinated wildfire prevention?
Wildfire knows no borders. A fire that starts and grows in one community can easily spread to devastate surrounding communities. Accordingly, closely coordinated wildfire prevention and preparedness efforts result in the greatest reduction in wildfire risk. Several reports published in recent years have highlighted the need for increased coordination on wildfire prevention and preparedness in Marin. The 2016 Marin County “Community Wildfire Protection Plan,” and 2018 “Lessons Learned — North Bay Fire Siege” report, and this year’s “Marin Civil Grand Jury Report Wildfire Preparedness: A New Approach,” all emphasize the importance of a countywide, multi-agency approach to better prepare and protect our residents. Marin has been fortunate to avoid any recent, large and damaging wildfires but the time to act is now. A collective effort by all citizens and property owners is necessary to build a resilient community and reduce the threat of wildfire to life, property, and our local infrastructure.
What is the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority?
Over the past several months, Marin’s fire chiefs, city and town managers, and the County of Marin have worked together to develop and create the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) to implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness program for Marin County. 17 public agencies responsible for fire services and who have taxing authority in Marin have joined the MWPA and have placed a countywide parcel tax, Measure C, on the March 2020 ballot to fund the identified wildfire preparedness, prevention and mitigation efforts.
This coordinated effort, supported by over 85 elected officials and encompassing 98% of the land mass within Marin County and 96% of Marin’s population, has received broad support from the community. Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (CO$T), Organized for Action – Marin (OFA), Marin Conservation League, FireSAFE MARIN, Firewise Neighborhood Groups, and Citizens for Wildfire Preparedness have all stepped forward in support of this coordinated program for proactive preparedness, prevention, and education.
How will the MWPA be funded?
Measure C will provide a stable source of locally controlled funding dedicated to wildfire prevention. If passed by voters, Measure C would levy up to 10 cents per building square foot and provide approximately $20 million annually for 10 years in dedicated, locally controlled funding to be used only for wildfire preparedness, prevention and mitigation projects. All funds generated by Mesaure C would stay in Marin and could not be taken by the State. An independent citizens’ oversight committee and annual audits would ensure funds are used only for wildfire prevention, preparedness and mitigation efforts. Additionally, the new revenue source would help Marin qualify for state and federal grants that otherwise will go to other counties. Measure C requires 66.7% countywide so every vote counts.
What programs would the MWPA local funding measure support?
If Measure C is passed, key elements of this initiative include:
- Improving emergency alert and warning systems ensuring early and organized evacuations
- Improving evacuation routes and infrastructure to enhance traffic flow for safer evacuations
- Expanding coordinated efforts to reduce hazardous vegetation
- Expanding and enhancing defensible space and home hardening evaluations while educating homeowners about reducing their fire risk
- Providing grants and support to seniors, low-income homeowners and those with access and functional needs who may need assistance maintaining defensible space and making their homes fire resistant
- Creating and sustaining coordinated neighborhood wildfire public safety preparedness programs
Is there a proposed expenditure plan for the MWPA?
Yes, revenue generated by Measure C may only be used for local wildfire prevention and would be distributed as follows:
- 60% of the funding would be dedicated to four core program areas
- Vegetation Management
- Wildfire Detection and Evacuation Program Improvements
- Grants to seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income homeowners
- Public Education
- 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.
Who are the agencies participating in the MWPA?
The local agencies participating in the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority include:
- Southern Marin Fire Protection District
- Novato Fire Protection District
- Stinson Beach Fire Protection District
- Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District
- Kentfield Fire Protection District
- Bolinas Fire Protection District
- Marinwood Community Services District
- Muir Beach Community Services District
- Inverness Public Utility District
- Town of Fairfax
- Town of San Anselmo
- Town of Ross
- Town of Corte Madera
- City of Larkspur
- City of San Rafael
- City of Mill Valley
- County of Marin
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 a designed to expand, enhance and better coordinate the services already provided by our local fire agencies and emergency service providers.
When can I vote on the measure?
Measure C will be on the ballot in March 2020. All registered voters under the jurisdiction of the 17 agencies who have joined the MWPA are eligible to vote on the measure.
What level of support does the measure need to pass?
At least 66.7% of those who cast a ballot on Measure C must vote YES in order for it to pass.
How can I register to vote or learn more about voting?
You can register to vote at www.registertovote.ca.gov. To find out more about voting in this election, please contact the Marin County Registrar of Voters at (415) 473-6456 or visit www.marincounty.org/depts/rv.
How can learn more about the measure?