The most effective step you can take to protect your home from wildfires is to clean all leaves and dead vegetation from your roof and gutters. The most vulnerable part of your home is typically the roof (or other large horizontal surfaces like decks). Roofs are most prone to igniting from embers that are blown by the wind sometimes well in advance of the fire. Embers will ignite dead vegetation that collects in gutters and under eaves. Class A roofs that are in good condition are designed to withstand a fire that starts on top of the roof, but if the fire starts in the gutters or under the eaves where it has access to the combustible siding or fascia board underneath the roof edge it could spread quickly.
Gutter guards are recommended because they keep the flammable debris out of your gutters--you'll also spend less time on your roof cleaning and worry less about debris accumulation on windy Red Flag Days. Metal gutter guards are recommended over plastic or foam gutter guards in fire hazard areas because they are not combustible.
There is a wide range of products for DIYers and also installation services who will take care of the project for you. I put these in my home and am happy with them although they were tedious to get in. If you have any products or services to recommend, please add them in the comments.
All plants will burn under the right conditions. With fire-smart landscaping we aim to minimize the destructive forces of wildfires by:
complex on San Anselmo Ave at Redwood--the old Rafael's grocery-- is letting us use his backyard for the gathering. The party will be outside under a canopy of Oak trees with plenty of space, ventilation, sunshine or shade (you choose), good food, good drink, and good cheer.
Please bring a folding chair if you'll want to sit!!!
Why are we doing this? Because we wanted to have a party! And we want to get to know our neighbors better after so much time isolated.
Date and TIme: Saturday, 6/19, from 3p-5p
Location: the backyard behind Breakaway Matcha at 1218 San Anselmo Ave
What: BBQ hotdogs, veggie dogs, COVID-friendly food (no dipping or sharing), beer, iced Matcha, sodas
Safety Protocols: Please refer to the California Department for Public Health guidance for gatherings here. Please don't attend if you feel sick.
Thank you to Eric Gower from Breakaway Matcha for his generous offer of iced matcha for the party, to Bryan Hendon for offering the use of his backyard, and to the YFSG leadership team (Barbara Thornton, Mike Kelly, Tim McGrath, Ryan Grabenkort) for funding this community event!
We hope to see you there!
Firesafe Marin in partnership with the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority is holding two Chipper Days for residents in YFSG. Residents are urged to sign up in advance as spots fill up. YFSG dates are June 21 and September 20. More detail and registration can be found here: https://www.chipperday.com/marin
Walking around Phoenix Lake yesterday the drought was on full display. The lake was drained and its contents were pumped into the Bon Tempe reservoir to supplement Marin's drinking water supply. In a normal year we don't need to tap into Phoenix Lake, but we had historically low rainfall this winter.
According to MMWD, our average YTD rainfall is 48.41 inches. This year we only had 20.26 inches. Since 1879, when records of annual rainfall started, there was only one year, 1923, when rainfall was this low. It’s probably not a coincidence that in 1923 devastating wildfires ravaged Marin, destroying many homes in Woodacre and coming as close to YFSG as Fairfax.
Why does low winter rainfall mean higher wildfire risk in the summer and fall? When there's a drought, plants don't get the water they need to produce normal amounts of new growth. Less green, new growth lowers the fuel moisture content (FMC) of the vegetation, which makes plants more combustible so fire can spread more easily. The data they have for FMC in the Santa Cruz mountains, which is the closest measured region to Marin and a similar environment, goes back to 2013--the average value since then is 137, and the low was 115 until this year, which is 97. This is unprecedented.
Last year was the worst on record for wildfires in California. Over 4 million acres burned, many of them in West Marin and neighboring counties. This year the wildfire conditions brought on by the drought are expected to be far worse.
The best way to protect yourselves from wildfire danger is to start now before the season is upon us. Here are some things you can do:
We’re all in this together. Please let us know if you have questions about how to prepare or if you need help. Our email address is email@example.com.
For many of us, the nightmare wildfire scenario goes something like... waking up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke, looking outside and realizing that it's too late to do anything except leave quickly. As often as we hear about these scenarios in the news--they make compelling stories--they aren't all that common. What's more likely is that the community is already on a heightened fire alert due to a Red Flag Warning and the emergency procedures that are in place notify residents, allowing ample time to pack a few things, prepare their homes, and evacuate before the fire is in their neighborhood.
But in order for this system to work, residents need to register for emergency alerts. For residents in YFSG and across Marin, this means signing up for Alert Marin, which you can do here.
Alert Marin provides emergency alerts (not informational notices), via text, voice, and email based on the registered address. Alert Marin will be able to tell you if you should be evacuating or preparing to evacuate based on your address, which might be a different direction than what they tell your neighbor down the block. This ability of Alert Marin to provide granular emergency directions based on your registered location is critical. In the case of a house fire, like the ones on Hillside and Crest in 2019, the fire department may not want residents to evacuate because doing so would block the road and hinder access for fire engines, which could increase the chances of fire spread and put lives at danger. Alert Marin is the only service in Marin that can provide this level of service.
Nixle is another notification service that provides valuable information and we recommend signing up for it, too. Like Alert Marin, Nixle sends notifications via text and email (not voice), but they send a lot more notifications, which can cause people to mute or disable their messages. Nixle sends notifications from authorized government agencies on a variety of situations, which they categorize as "Alerts (many would refer to this as an emergency type alert), Advisories (less urgent need-to-know information), Community Information (day-to-day neighborhood to community-level information), Traffic (very localized traffic information)". Sign up for Nixle here, but not as a substitute for Alert Marin.
What else? We recommend these additional tools:
If an evacuation order is given, as we saw over the past week in parts of Point Reyes, you may have as little as a few minutes or as much as a few days to prepare. The experts say to prepare your pets for the quick evacuation, which in some cases might mean hours of training to get skittish animals comfortable with going into their crates, or might be as simple as scooping up your dog, grabbing their go bag and hopping in the car.
The NFPA has a pet evacuation list here, which outlines things to bring and some steps for preparing to evacuate your pets. In addition to the obvious items you'll want to bring like a leash, harness, food, water, and bowls, they recommend using a large tote and plastic bags labeled with a sharpie to store vaccination records, medications, ownership records, microchip paperwork, and if your pet has special needs it's a good idea to document those, too. You might also want to include some printed photos of your pet in case you needed to post a missing sign or prove your ownership.
We are lucky to have some thoughtful and qualified pet owners in YFSG who have provided their pet evacuation plans below.
Now as to the beasts themselves:
Cats are high maintenance, love their routine and do not like new things/environment. Cats are not like dogs…Most will not come when called and a trip in a car is not a thrilling adventure. For cats the car is taking them out of their comfort zone, and for most cats, a carrier equals a trip to the veterinarian.
Unless you are the lucky owner of a cat who doesn’t mind anything…in which case grab the cat and put it in a carrier…care will need to be taken not to spook them when an evacuation order is received.
Make sure your neighbors know about your pets. Exchange pet information and house keys with a few trusted friends and neighbors. You may not be home in the event of an evacuation, and neighbors can evacuate your pets for you. Make sure to discuss this with them beforehand.
What do you keep in your go-bag for your pet?
An extra leash, small bag of dog food (enough for a week), a collapsible water bowl and food bowl. It is not really necessary to have two bowls. You can make it work with one bowl. A flashlight.
Any tips for cat owners?
Placing a cat in a cat carrier can take time. In the event of an approaching fire, you can use a pillowcase to safety get them out of the house and into your vehicle.
Those lightning storms Saturday night were crazy, and I would have slept right through them if Natalie didn't wake me up. By the time I was out of bed, lightning strikes had started fires on King Mountain in Larkspur, which is only a couple miles South of us, and Mt. Barnabe in Samuel P. Taylor, which is only a few miles West of us. It could have easily been Bald Hill, Sky Ranch, or one of the other high points in our immediate vicinity.
The conditions when the fires started were an evacuation disaster in the making. It was before 4am so most people were asleep. All of Marin was under a Red Flag Warning, which is the highest alert issued by National Weather Service for fire danger, and typically corresponds to hot, dry conditions, and high wind. Many homes, including mine, were experiencing a power outage due to rolling blackouts, so internet was out and cell phones were not fully charged. Our cell coverage is spotty, and I don't have a landline. So, even though I'm signed up for Alert Marin, I don't know if evacuation alerts would have gotten through.
These conditions are becoming more common for us in Marin. The fire season, the time between our first and last Red Flag Days each year, is now about 7 months (June-Nov). During Red Flag Days, when fire danger is highest, we are also more likely to have our power shut off by PG&E for a PSPS. Without a landline or solid cell signal and a charged phone, it's difficult to receive evacuation alerts, which is why I finally--after eight years living here--bought an emergency radio.
I bought a Midland WR120 with weather radio and alert, which you can buy on Amazon for $30. It was recommended and tested by Firesafe Marin, and they provided programming instructions, which made it pretty easy to set up. There are others that have more features, but make sure that the radio you get has emergency alerts, because that's what will wake you up in the middle of the night if your other notification systems fail.
Here's the link to Amazon where you can buy the Midland WR120 emergency radio.
Here's the link to the programming instructions shared by Firesafe Marin.
Location: Redwood Ave
Situation: My situation is a little more challenging than most, my house is on the side of a hill and I have 80 steps to climb from my house to where my car is parked, and 3 cats to take with me.
Therefore I had to think about being very prepared and do as much as possible before I had to evacuate. I am fortunate as I have a place to go if I am evacuated. Before every summer I take items that can be stored to this other house. Amongst those are cat food, bowls , litter and litter boxes, blankets and toys. I also pack a couple of suitcases with toiletries, clothes, items I would prefer not to burn: some heirloom jewelry, photos, etc. as well as passports, social security card, birth certificate and other papers which would be time consuming or difficult to replace. Sheets, winter clothes, extra glasses, etc. For those without a place to stay you can keep some of the items above in the trunk of your car.
As to my car, I keep in it: goggles, heavy leather gloves, bandanas, masks. An extra pair of hiking shoes, flashlight, radio, batteries. I make sure I always have at least ¾ of a tank of gas, that my water reservoir and windshield wiper tanks are full. I also keep a couple of gallons of tap water, in case car overheats and if there is a lot of ashes that water can be used to clear windows.
I always park my car in the direction I will need to take to evacuate.
As to the house, I have purchased a 4 in 1 tool, which has a water and gas shut off, this tool is kept in a drawer closest to the door. I have a “go bag” in which I keep clothes I will need to wear prior to evacuate – heavy pants, sturdy shoes, etc - once the bag is empty I can put in it other items I wish or may have forgotten, medications, etc.
With these preparations I feel I can make 3 to 4 trips up my stairs, 2 for the cats and 1 or 2 for myself. In conclusion the more challenging your situation is, the more preparations need to be made in case you have to evacuate.
My husband and I have only our younger son living at home. He just turned 10. The three of us each have go-bags packed. Our N95 masks, goggles and gloves are easily accessible. We also have three sleeping bags ready. Our dog Scooby has a go-bag too; his is the heaviest because of the dog food. We store them at the base of our stairs.
Keeping our cell phones fully charged is always a challenge, but we do have additional chargers in both cars. If we get separated from one another, our family meeting spot is the Drake High School parking lot.
We bought a Red Cross approved Eton brand all-purpose weather radio and USB phone charger. We keep it in the window by our bed. It provides weather alerts and solar-powered LED lights. The seven NOAA channels provide timely and reliable info on emergency situations and evacuations. The AM/FM digital radio was really helpful for news and the device allowed us to charge our phones during last year’s controlled power outages.
Our route is simple. We’d take one car and head down Humboldt Ave. We keep our cars face forward and try our best to have a full tank of gas at all times. If time allowed after getting my family and Scooby in the car, I’d likely take my favorite photos, I’d also probably grab framed art that my two sons created. But really, if we were ordered to evacuate, I’d move quick. It wouldn’t be hard because we’re prepared. When we get warned, as I am sure we will on the red flag days to come, that’s when I pack the car.
We keep two gallons of drinking water in each car along with first aid kits, and extra prescription glasses for my husband and I.
I’d likely check on my immediate neighbors, just cause. The couple next door only have a landline telephone -- no mobile phone and no computer. But, they got the recent notification for the drill from Alert Marin, and they called me to ask if it was mandatory. I got the alert too. I actually got a call, email and text, the night before around 6 pm and then exactly at 9 am the following day.
We are lucky to have such kind neighbors. You hear about people who have terrible neighbors but that’s not the case for us. I could not ask for better folks on my short lane, we genuinely care about each others’ well being and safety.
Location: Floribel Ave
RED FLAG DAYS
IF EVACUATION REQUIRED
Location: Floribel Ave
Description: We are a family of four with two school age children. Our home is about thirty steps up from the road. Our evacuation routes are moderately wooded and very curvy. Cars are often parked on the sides of the road.
Evacuation Route: We have two main routes out for evacuation in our car. Our primary is Floribel to Redwood down across Center to Sir Francis Drake. Our secondary is Floribel to Scenic across Center towards Sir Francis Drake.
Yolansdale Fire Safety Group (YFSG) maintains this website to provide general guidance to our residents. The views expressed herein represent the opinions of our volunteers. They have not been reviewed or approved by any organization that develops wildfire preparedness or safety standards. YFSG expressly disclaims any liability resulting from reliance upon the views or opinions expressed in this website and makes no representations, warranties, or claims of any kind concerning the accuracy or completeness of the information presented on this site.