There’s a movement happening in Marin County, California. Residents living in the county of more than 260,000 people are taking a more active approach in preparing their homes and communities for wildfire.
Last year brought an explosion of growth in the number of Firewise USA® sites in the county, making it the fastest growing county of the year. Prior to 2018, the county had nine participating sites, the first site getting its start in 2009. Marin County has now grown to 30 recognized sites and has the fourth highest participation in site numbers by county in the country.
Todd Lando of FIRESafe Marin said after the 2017 fires in the North Bay, local fire departments were overwhelmed with questions from residents. They used the Firewise USA® program to start to teach homeowners what they can do to reduce their wildfire risk.
The program allowed local experts to handle the overwhelming interest because neighbors were working together and helping each other learn about the things they could do to make their home more ignition resistant.
Lando says the communities are seeing the added benefit of getting to know each other and bond with each other by working towards the same goal.
It can sometimes be a challenge to talk to your neighbors about wildfire risk reduction. One tip Lando gives to homeowners is to start with working on your own home. Once you start taking action around your property, it can be easier to talk to neighbors about why you are doing the work and what they can do as well.
The success in Marin County was recently highlighted in the Marin Independent Journal. Program participants explained to the paper why they’ve decided to participate in Firewise USA®. The spread in the number of sites was described as contagious. Mill Valley fire Battalion Chief Scott Barnes told the Journal, “Someone hears about a neighborhood forming a Firewise community, and then they say, maybe we should think about the same.”
Lando doesn’t expect the interest in Marin to slow down anytime soon. He is already working with several more communities that plan to apply for recognition in 2019.
Photo Courtesy Todd Lando. Marin County residents meet to learn about reducing their wildfire risk.
Follow Marie Snow on twitter @MarieSnowNFPA.