City of Mill Valley’s Response to North Bay Fires

The North Bay fires began late in the evening on Sunday, October 8 and spread throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano counties. Due to extreme wind and low humidity conditions, the fires quickly grew to become wide-ranging incidents. By Saturday, October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres and destroyed approximately 5,700 structures. Around 90,000 were evacuated from their homes. These fires have killed at least 41 people and hospitalized at least 185.

As the North Bay fires continued and new evacuation orders were issued last week and over the weekend, the City of Mill Valley provided mutual aid, shelter services and other resources to Marin County Office of Emergency Services, to support evacuees and First Responders from the North Bay. City staff demonstrated considerable ability, proficiency, and generosity in providing assistance to our neighbors and to the Northern California community.

The Mill Valley Fire Department provided mutual aid to Sonoma County including one Type 3 wild land engine with four personnel and one strike team leader, Battalion Chief Mike St. John, on Sunday, October 8, who are still assigned to the fire. 

The Mill Valley Police Department assisted in the evacuation efforts in Sonoma County, as part of the Marin County contingent.  Twelve Mill Valley police officers responded to the fire zone last week to cover 17 shifts providing protection and assistance.

In the first days of the disaster the City of Santa Rosa sent a request to City Manager’s throughout California for assistance with emergency response support. Our City Manager Jim McCann responded to requests from the City of Santa Rosa for 2 Building Inspectors and 2 Public Information Officers to assist.

The Marin County Office of Emergency Services, which organizes County and regional agency response to disasters, requested all Marin Cities to identify trained staff to assist in the Emergency Operations Center and consider opening shelters to support evacuation efforts. More than 60 members of Mill Valley staff participated in the response including 4 staff members who assisted in the County Emergency Operations Center providing Public Information Officer and Logistics duties.

The Recreation Department hosted Red Cross workers at Community Center. Over 20 City employees in addition to Tamalpais High School Staff, Southern Marin Fire District firefighters, and Mill Valley CERT volunteers opened the Gus Gym at Tamalpais High School as an evacuation center in anticipation of evacuees from Sonoma County before being asked to “stand down” and close the evacuation center. The former Seminary in Strawberry made their property available for evacuees and the Red Cross operated, and still operates, a shelter for evacuees and rest space for firefighters. Mill Valley CERT has been helping at the Seminary Fire Camp almost daily to support the fire fighters who have been fighting the North Bay fires. Additionally, the Mill Valley Community Center provided showers for fire fighters and Red Cross employees.

Over 30 City of Mill Valley employees were directly affected by the fires including Fire Chief Tom Welch whose house in Santa Rosa burned down. The City is grateful for the support of Mill Valley CERT team, the Emergency Planning Commission, the Red Cross, the Southern Marin Fire District for supporting the Mill Valley Fire Department, and PG&E for their response to the fires. While Mill Valley has a long history of emergency preparedness, there is much to be learned from these fires. We recognize that there is a strong potential for a similar event in Marin and we will evaluate the response and prevention lessons learned from this devastating event for application locally to benefit the Mill Valley Community.