While there are a constellation of fire departments throughout Marin County committed to fighting fires (primarily building fires), there is no agency dedicated to preventing the emerging scourge of our times: wildfire.
I voted for Corte Madera to join the new countywide Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA), which will do just that, for a period of 10 years.
The MWPA would help keep Corte Madera and all of Marin County safe by performing wildfire prevention functions that are currently only partially or inadequately in effect, including: wildfire detection, evacuation route planning and improvements, vegetation/fuel management, helping residents harden their homes against wildfire, public education, and bolstering unique local wildfire initiatives.
To accomplish these goals, MWPA would be funded by a 10 cent per square foot parcel tax, to be placed on the ballot in March of 2020. If approved by voters, this parcel tax would raise $21 million annually.
Of that, 60% would go to wildfire detection, prevention, and evacuation efforts (i.e. removing dead brush from public open spaces or widening narrow roads); 20% to helping residents harden their homes (i.e. subsidies for removing flammable tree species); and 20% specific local fire prevention programs.
All funds would be legally dedicated to these purposes and cannot be taken by the State.
The increasing threat of wildfires has made it clear to me since I first learned about the MWPA that its basic contours were a good idea, but I did have one concern: that creating a new firefighting agency was moving in the opposite direction of consolidating local fire departments, which has been proven in recent years to deliver residents higher quality service at a lower price.
This concern was allayed by the introduction of a 10-year sunset to the MWPA, meaning that rather than a new permanent agency, MWPA can function as an effective stopgap to prevent wildfires while local fire departments begin the complex and time-consuming groundwork of moving towards consolidation.
We have already seen with our own eyes how climate change continues to make wildfires more severe, deadly, and destructive. Joining the MWPA is an intelligent and responsible way for Corte Madera to pool our resources with other local agencies to address a threat too big for any of us to tackle alone.