Preparedness

Marin Firefighters Renew Prevention Pleas Amid State Crises

'What’s going on through my head is that I can’t believe it’s only July. How in the heck are we going to make it another three months, plus?'

by Adrian Rodriguez, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif. / July 31, 2018

(TNS) - As wildfires continue to rage across California — including the deadly Carr Fire that injured three Marin firefighters last week — Marin County fire Chief Jason Weber said it’s time to remind residents to be vigilant about fire prevention.

“What’s going on through my head is that I can’t believe it’s only July,” Weber said Monday. “How in the heck are we going to make it another three months, plus?”

After last year’s devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma counties, and an early start to the fire season this year, the solution is to make sure that the Marin community is taking extra precautions such as creating defensible space around homes, Weber said.

“I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got to make sure is — in partnership with our community — that we don’t have a fire here in Marin,” Weber said.

Marin fire departments have dispatched about 66 firefighters and 14 engines to battle the Carr Fire in Shasta County, the Cranston Fire in Riverside County and the Mendocino Complex fires, Weber said.

The three members of his department that suffered burn injuries Thursday night fighting the Carr Fire are doing well, Weber said.

Firefighter Tyler Barnes, 34, who has four years with the department, suffered burns to his nose and ears but has been cleared to report back to full duty, Weber said.

Engineer Scott Pederson, 37, who has served 19 years with the department, suffered burns to his hands and is in recovery.

Brian Cardoza, 26, who has been with the department just three months, had his face burned and was sent to University of California at Davis for treatment. He is recovering there.

“(Cardoza) is feeling great and anxious to get back to work,” Weber said. “He is on his way to a full recovery.”

Weber said that he has relieved six of the 17 firefighters, including the three injured members, with fresh legs.

The Mill Valley Fire Department, the Tiburon Fire Protection District and the Central Marin Fire Department each dispatched one engine and four firefighters to the Carr Fire on Thursday morning. All of those firefighters are still deployed.

“They are optimistic about the way the fire is behaving,” said Mill Valley fire Chief Tom Welch, noting that the fire has slowed down.

Welch said that he expects his crew to return no fewer than seven days.

“But the way this season is going, it’s likely that we’re going to have to send out another team to support some other fire in the state,” he said.

The Novato Fire District, Kentfield Fire Protection District, San Rafael Fire Department and Ross Valley Fire Department also have each dispatched four firefighters and one engine to the Mendocino Complex fires, which include the River Fire and the Ranch Fire.

The county department has also provided two engines and six firefighters, Weber said. Several departments also have dispatched overhead officers.

Although Marin fire departments have offered support to suppress fires across the state, county and Marin municipal fire officials maintain that protecting Marin is the top priority in their minds.

“If folks have not done their defensible space by now, it’s getting to be almost too late,” Welch said. “We really encourage folks to clear that buffer, pack grab-and-go bags. Evacuation is key.”

Welch pointed to the evacuation issues in Shasta County that resulted in several deaths.

Novato fire Chief Bill Tyler said that his department offers a $500 vegetation management matching grant program, in which the district offers chipper service and fire fuels removal. Novato fire officials also do free home inspections to let residents know what they can do.

“Residents can really help us to help them by keeping the vegetation clear and remove fire-prone plants,” Tyler said.

Todd Lando, coordinator of FireSafeMarin.org, which helps neighborhoods across the county organize to be FireWise certified, said that when wildfires spread to urban environments, a defensible space around a home could prevent that blaze from swallowing communities and injuring or killing firefighters and residents.

A defensible space is a 100-foot zone around a home that should have little to no flammable material. The first 30 feet from a home in particular should be completely cleared of dry grasses, brush and leaves.

“If you don’t create a defensible space, you’re putting your life at risk, your home at risk and you’re putting firefighters’ lives at risk,” Lando said.

Fire officials encouraged residents to sign up for emergency alerts at AlertMarin.org.

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©2018 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)

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