County of Marin - News Releases - Wildfire Lessons Learned

For Immediate Release
September 11, 2018

Board Hears ‘Lessons Learned’ from 2017 Wildfires

Fire chief, emergency services manager share results of extensive study

San Rafael, CA – The Marin County Fire Department’s chief delivered some important and sobering messages following his update for the Marin County Board of Supervisors and public about local wildfire susceptibility and preparedness.

Chris Reilly (left), Emergency Services Manager for the Sheriff's Office, and Jason Weber (right), Marin County Fire Chief, speak at the Board of Supervisors meeting.Chris Reilly (left), Emergency Services Manager for the Sheriff's Office, and Jason Weber (right), Marin County Fire Chief, speak at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Chief Jason Weber provided an overview of lessons learned from the October 2017 North Bay Fires, pointing to several areas that need improvement and offering key recommendations. Weber spoke as a wildfire of more than 100 acres was burning near Samuel P. Taylor State Park in West Marin.

At the Board presentation, Weber was joined by Chris Reilly, Manager of Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services (OES). Their messages came about one month shy of the first anniversary of the firestorm that killed 44 people, destroyed 8,900 structures and caused an estimated $14.5 billion in damage in Sonoma and Napa counties.

In November 2017, a Board subcommittee co-chaired Supervisors Dennis Rodoni and Judy Arnold met for the first time to study the takeaways of the Tubbs Fire and the other fires that sent residents fleeing for safety, including to a temporary shelter established at Marin Center in San Rafael. The Board subcommittee met with agency leaders from fire, law enforcement, land management, and local municipal government sectors to identify gaps in existing wildfire prevention programs. They focused on three areas: wildfire prevention and protection; vegetation management; and emergency notifications and evacuation plans. A community meeting in March 2018 was used to collect feedback and ideas from residents. The result of the research effort was a 19-page report, which can be found on the County website.

“The establishment of the ‘lessons learned’ subcommittee was a great opportunity to hear from our neighbors to the north about their experiences and how we can all improve public safety during a wildland fire disaster,” said Reilly, a former firefighter. “Furthermore, it was an opportunity to collaborate with all our public safety partners, land managers and others here in Marin on ways to prepare for, mitigate, respond to and recover from a local wildland fire disaster.”

Weber provided 24 urgent recommendations pertaining to fire protection and many more targeting land management, law enforcement, emergency services staff, and town and city staff. His three challenges directed to the public were to:

  • harden homes to decrease structure ignitability, such as installing fire-resistant roofing, siding, vents, and dual-pane windows;
  • maintain defensible space around homes through responsible vegetation management practices;
  • keep driveways and roads clear to ensure emergency vehicle access.

“The success of these recommendations boils down to buy-in from a broad group of stakeholders and strong collaboration between all parties, including local governments and residents,” Weber said. “I’d say it’s imperative that all preventive measures are taken seriously and implemented. We can’t afford to wait to do all that work until after Marin is devastated by wildfire. After it happens, 20-20 hindsight isn’t going to be worth much to us.”

The Board of Supervisors recognized Marin County Preparedness Month at its September 11 meeting and promoted the idea of staying informed, making emergency plans, building an emergency kit, and getting involved with neighbors in disaster preparedness. Residents are urged to register their contact information with Alert Marin notification system overseen by the Sheriff’s OES. More information about fire safety can be found on the Fire Safe Marin website and the Marin County Fire website. Learn about how to prepare an emergency kit at the Ready Marin website.


Jason Weber
Marin County Fire Department

33 Castle Rock Ave.
Woodacre, CA 94973
(415) 473-6717
Email: Jason Weber
Marin County Fire website