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Mill Valley City Council Supports Countywide Wildfire Prevention Initiative

October 23, 2019

At their October 21, 2019 meeting, Mill Valley City Council members adopted a Resolution authorizing the City of Mill Valley's participation in the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement (JPA) to participate in and form the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority. The Council also requested that the County of Marin place a Parcel Tax Measure on the March 3, 2020 ballot for a term of 10 years. Should the JPA be formed and the Parcel Tax approved by County voters, the City of Mill Valley is expected to receive substantial benefit towards wildfire prevention over the ten-year life-span of the measure.

Mill Valley Fire Chief Tom Welch and Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber presented to the Council, and Southern Marin Fire Protection District Fire Chief Chris Tubbs was also present to answer questions from Council.

“Due to climate change, fire seasons last much longer, are far more destructive, and we need to adjust,” Welch said. “This measure allows us to adjust and react quickly and has three goals: to protect citizens, to protect homes and communities, and to protect the environment.”

Council voted unanimously to support the measure. “I am very supportive of this initiative,” Mayor Jim Wickham said. “In Northern California, this is the first initiative where there is a coordinated effort to come together as a county and address the issues of widespread catastrophic fires.”

Background

The deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California history have occurred in recent years, and Marin's wildlands and lush vegetation leave us particularly vulnerable.

“Marin has the same fuel conditions, same weather, and same topography that drove the destructive wildfires to our north in 2017,” Chief Weber said.

260,000 residents in Marin receive fire protection and emergency response services from 19 separate Cities, Towns, Fire Protection Districts, and the County, but there is no single agency responsible for coordinating County-wide wildfire prevention. Fire does not respect jurisdictional boundaries, the Fire Chiefs reiterated, stressing the need for immediate, coordinated action and cooperation to better protect our community.

“A coordinated effort amongst these entities in Marin, CAN make a difference, and CAN save lives” Chief Tyler, Novato Fire Department, said in a video shown at the meeting.

Proposed Initiative

A countywide coalition that includes the cooperation of all Marin fire and City/Town agencies and the County has proposed a new JPA and 10-year funding measure in the form of a new property tax that would raise approximately $21 million per year dedicated to local wildfire prevention. When executed in full, the JPA agreement would lead to the formation of the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, a new agency with a mission to fund and oversee the following efforts:

  • Wildfire detection and evacuation system improvements
  • Vegetation management and fire hazard reduction
  • Defensible space and home hardening evaluations
  • Public education and neighborhood wildfire preparedness
  • Local specific wildfire prevention efforts

By the end of October, all Marin agencies with fire suppression responsibilities will consider a Resolution to join the new JPA, and to request the County of Marin to put a Marin Wildfire Prevention Initiative Parcel Tax Measure on the March 2020 ballot. The County of Marin and the Cities/Towns of Fairfax, Larkspur, Corte Madera, and the Southern Marin Fire Protection District have adopted resolutions to participate in the JPA.

To learn more, check out the Staff Report the City Council Meeting Video Recording and the Marin Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Initiative.