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A Successful Fyre Fest: How to involve community members in protecting themselves and their homes

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

One of the great things about being a GrizzlyCorps member is that, though we are mostly working with our individual organizations throughout the year, occasionally we can come together and support community outreach efforts collectively. Josh Hampshire, another GrizzlyCorps fellow with Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, recruited a few of us to help volunteer at a community outreach event concerning wildfire prevention. On May 28, Fire Safe Marin hosted Ember Stomp! Marin's 1st Annual Wildfire Prevention Festival, framing wildfire prevention as a celebration to participate in rather than a fearful yet inevitable necessity. The festival drew people in with local food trucks and live music throughout the day, creating a positive, kid friendly environment. While children played “fit the fire safe vents in the wall”, “put out the embers with the soccer ball”, and “toss the flammable yard waste into the compost bin”, parents were free to roam and learn about how they could protect their families, homes, and communities from catastrophic wildfires. Different for-profit, non-profit, and government agencies all had stands. Attendees could speak with various insurance agencies, local fire departments, and different companies that make fire safe vents and more to learn how to protect their homes. University of California Master Gardeners set up a demonstration educating on how to landscape a fire friendly yard using native plants and conservative spacing. A local farm brought their goats and other people brought their therapy dogs to break up the serious conversations. Walking around the festival, attendees could absorb information at their own pace in an approachable way.

The other GrizzlyCorps volunteers and I were stationed at the exit of the festival by an action board listing various activities Marin citizens could take part in to protect their communities from wildfires. These activities were grouped into four categories (Prepare Yourself, Harden Your Home, Create a Fire-Smart Yard, Ready Your Community) and ranged anywhere from create a fire evacuation plan for your family to decluttering Zone 0 (the first five feet of yard surrounding a house) to make a buffer zone between a potential fire and a residence. Festival attendees would take a pin and mark which action they would take or had already taken to curb the effects of wildfires on their community. We were stationed at the board to draw people in and get them to participate as well as answer any questions they had about the potential action items. The goal of the action board was two-fold: to remind attendees of what they had learned at the festival that could translate into tangible actions they can take to prevent wildfire destruction and protect their families, and to communicate to citizens how involved the community could be in this effort. By the end of the day, the board was full of colorful pins (though the data might have been skewed, as small children could only reach the “plant native plants” action).

Wildfire prevention in Marin County has become a more prominent fear over the past decade. This becomes obvious when you take stock of how much more funding is being directed towards wildfire prevention in the county. Marin County has a sales tax (Measure A, that was just reapproved last week) that helps fund Marin County Parks and Open Spaces as well as conservation easements and sustainable agriculture practices. In the first iteration of Measure A, from 2012-2020, Marin County Parks was spending only $250K on wildfire prevention programming such as fuels reduction. In the new iteration, from 2022-2030, Marin County Parks will be spending up to $2 million a year on wildfire prevention in the parks.1 Marin citizens pushed for this change, but only relatively recently in comparison to the rest of the state. While catastrophic wildfires in California have dramatically increased, the most damaging fire to pass through Marin was in 1923. With the exception of a prominent fire (Vision Fire), which burned over 12,000 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore and part of a nearby town in 1995, Marin County citizens were not as focused on wildfires until 2017.

The North Bay Fires burned over 245,000 acres of the Bay Area in 2017. The intensity and amount of fires burning Northern California has only increased in the last 5 years, with significant damage in neighboring Sonoma County. In addition to Measure A funding supporting wildfire prevention on public lands, Marin County also passed Measure C in 2020. Measure C funds the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, a joint powers agency connecting major wildfire organizations across the county to create a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness plan.2 Ember Stomp is part of this joint effort. Hopefully, with more information provided to the public, Marin County citizens will continue to support major wildfire prevention efforts like Measure C and Measure A to keep the community safe.

While I typically work with the Marin Resource Conservation District on carbon farming in West Marin, I got to interact with a new section of the community and support them in their efforts to be proactive in our changing county. It was inspiring to see how many community members came and engaged with the event, and many told us about a couple new things they learned. And a huge thank you and congrats to Josh for creating such a phenomenal event!

Wildfire Prevention Resources provided by Ember Stomp!


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