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News & Press: D-RiSC

Editorial: San Rafael fire reminds us to be prepared

Saturday, June 16, 2018  
Posted by: Amanda Smith
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Flames bursting from San Rafael Hill last week offered a jolting reminder of the risk we face in California.

The horrific destruction of the North Bay fires in October has heightened awareness, if not fear, that it can also happen here.

Local fire officials have brought that message home from what they’ve seen fighting out-of-control wildland fires across the state. The terrain and conditions are not that different here than other areas where destructive fires have occurred in Northern California.

The North Bay fires were close to home, not only for local firefighters but for Marin residents.

They left little doubt that fires are not always stopped before they do substantial damage.

While Marin’s firefighters are well-trained and well-equipped to put out fires, there are times — thankfully, rarely — when conditions are stacked against them.

San Rafael firefighters have extinguished fires on San Rafael Hill before. They know the terrain. They were able to contain the June 9 fire to 12.6 acres of brush-covered hillside.

When a fire is spotted on Mount Tamalpais, a well-established and seamless mutual-aid response pounces on the fire to quickly contain it.

On San Rafael Hill, firefighters from across the county and CalFire helped stop the fire.

The lesson learned from the North Bay fires is that we need to be prepared: strengthening training and response strategies of our firefighting crews; increasing public awareness and quickly reporting fires; and clearing brush and low-lying tree limbs from around our homes and structures.

Marin fire crews are already busy training seasonal firefighters in controlled-burn exercises, a strategy often used to contain wildland fires by reducing the “fuel load” those fires feed on.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, Marin representative in the Senate, is pushing for increased funding for mutual aid systems and dispatch. He’s noted that North Bay fire officials’ initial call for help — for 300 fire engines from across the Bay Area — drew only 130.

He says we need to do better, and the deaths and widespread destruction left by the North Bay fires should be a lesson and a reminder of that.

It can happen again. That’s why we’re on edge. That’s why we need to respond to this understandable feeling of vulnerability with better and more effective preparation and protection.

McGuire is heading in the right direction. But as residents, we can do more as well.

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