Should Oakland Move Ahead With a New Wildfire Prevention District? Oakland Firesafe Council Says “No” For Now
Members of the Oakland Firesafe Council recently weighed in again on whether the City of Oakland should move forward with a measure to raise funds for a new Wildfire Prevention District.
Unanimously, we believe that this fall is not the time to be asking the public to pay new taxes. The coronavirus pandemic has not only left the City of Oakland’s finances in trouble, but also those of Oakland residents. It is our opinion that a ballot measure at this time would fail because residents do not have an appetite for new taxes—even for something as critical as wildfire prevention.
To a person, OFSC members are not in favor of a measure that would just be a repeat of the former Wildfire Prevention Assessment District. WPAD). We believe that it is the City’s responsibility to cover the costs of keeping its own properties fire safe. Furthermore, the last WPAD did not fully cover the costs of vegetation management on city-owned properties within the wildland-urban interface (WUI). We would not support a measure that only covered the annual maintenance of city properties within the WUI—even if it covered 100% of the need.
It has always been OFSC’s position that a new measure must incorporate the implementation of the City’s 10-year Vegetation Management Plan, which is still undergoing Environmental Review. At some point in the future, many—but not all—would consider supporting a measure that bundled both annual maintenance with implementation of the Vegetation Management Plan. Others would only support a measure that covered the special projects detailed in the Vegetation Management Plan, but believe that funding for annual maintenance still belongs in the General Fund—and that the funding should realistically cover 100% of the need rather than the 70% it currently does.
Finally, the City Council should not move forward with even considering a new wildfire prevention district until the Vegetation Management is finalized and approved by the City Council. Only then will they and the public have a full understanding of the cost of reducing the risk of wildfire in the City of Oakland’s wildland interface.
Oakland Firesafe Council
May 17, 2020
Recent California Fires Spur Wider Discussion: Ember Awareness
At a recent Northwestern California Community Wildfire Resiliency Gathering, representatives from Firesafe Councils and other groups learned that between 90% and 95% of homes destroyed in the recent Tubbs and Campfires were due to houses catching on fire from embers, not from itself. Defensible Space means more than just vegetation management. Learn more here.
OFSC joined the Claremont Canyon Conservancy in an hour-long discussion and tour of Claremont Canyon on October 3, 2019 with 15 legislative analysts from Capitol Impact. We shared our thoughts on lessons learned from the 1991 Firestorm and suggested ways in which the State might produce legislation that would strengthen wildfire prevention for Local Resource Areas (LRAs) such as Oakland. Among our recommendations was the formation of a regional Wildfire Prevention District for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties that would provide standards, consistency and coordinated implementation of wildfire prevention efforts–for fire knows no city boundaries. See our power point presentation here.
The Butte County “Camp Fire” – observations from the scene of California’s deadliest wildfire The NFPA Xchange, Michele Steinberg, January 28, 2019
A million California buildings face wildfire risk.’Extraordinary steps’ are needed to protect them. The Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2018
U.S. Forest Service ecologist says mega wildfires require more than suppression, urging 3-step solution, The Spokesman Review, October 28, 2018
Disaster Guide San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 2018
The Social Costs of Living in Wildfire-Prone Areas East Bay Express August 21. 2018
Should development be extinguished on California’s fire-prone hills? Reveal News, July 3, 2018
After deadly Carr Fire, a question of how — and whether — to rebuild 1,000 homes
San Francisco Chronicle August 25 2018
New Study reveals Targeted Outreach and Strict Enforcement Improves Compliance with Local Inspections for Wildfire Prevention
Our 2019 Defensible Space Study found that wildfire defensible space inspection programs achieving high compliance rates share five key characteristics:
- Strict enforcement of compliance through eventual use of abatement authority to abate non-compliant properties;
- Cost recovery of abatement and associated administrative fees from property owners;
- Property owner outreach and education to achieve voluntary compliance;
- Pairing annual inspections with public complaints to help identify non-compliant properties; and
- Provision of complementary programs, such as chipping, when appropriate.