Fire Safe San Mateo News

Wildfire Safety Blog and News from Fire Safe San Mateo.

Drought Reinforces Need for Defensible Space

CAL FIRE is asking homeowners to prepare earlier in creating Defensible Space due to California's current drought conditions.

A few helpful reminders and safety tips include: 
  • Never mow or trim dry grass on a Red Flag Warning Day. (Mow before 10 a.m. on a day when it’s not hot and windy).
  • Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation.
  • Spark arresters are required in wildland areas on all portable gasoline powered equipment.
  • Before starting a campfire, make sure you have a campfire permit and that they are permitted on the land you are visiting.
  • Afterwards, ensure that your campfire is properly extinguished.
4. Vehicle
  • Never pull over in dry grass.
  • Ensure trailer chains don't drag on the ground.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. 
  • Have proper tire pressure to avoid driving on wheel rim.
  • Never let your brake pads wear too thin.
  5. Other
  • Make sure cigarette butts are properly extinguished.
  • Never burn landscape debris like leaves or branches on NO Burn Days or when it's windy or areas where not allowed.
  • Target shoot only in approved areas, use lead ammunition only, and never at metal targets.
  • Report any suspicious activities to prevent arson.

For more fire prevention tips visit or

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Forest Service Researchers Develop WUI Risk Management Framework

Recent wildfire events throughout the world have highlighted the consequences of residential development in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) including hundreds to thousands of homes burned during a single wildfire to, more tragically, firefighter and homeowner fatalities. Despite substantial investments in modifying wildland fuels near populated areas, losses appear to be increasing. In this article, US Forest Service Researchers examine the conditions under which WUI wildfire disasters occur and introduce a wildfire risk assessment framework. By using this framework, the authors examine how prefire mitigation activities failed to prevent significant structure loss during the Fourmile Canyon fire outside Boulder, CO. In light of these results, the authors suggest the need to reevaluate and restructure wildfire mitigation programs aimed at reducing residential losses from wildfire.


Recent fire seasons in the western United States are some of the most damaging and costly on record. Wildfires in the wildland-urban interface on the Colorado Front Range, resulting in thousands of homes burned and civilian fatalities, although devastating, are not without historical reference. These fires are consistent with the characteristics of large, damaging, interface fires that threaten communities across much of the western United States. Wildfires are inevitable, but the destruction of homes, ecosystems, and lives is not. We propose the principles of risk analysis to provide land management agencies, first responders, and affected communities who face the inevitability of wildfires the ability to reduce the potential for loss. Overcoming perceptions of wildland-urban interface fire disasters as a wildfire control problem rather than a home ignition problem, determined by home ignition conditions, will reduce home loss.

“If our problem statement is defined a keeping wildfires out of the WUI, it is unobtainable, and large wildfires and residential disasters will continue, and likely increase.  Fuel treatments do not stop fires (just change behavior), and treatment alone without Home Ignition Zone [HIZ] treatment means that the inevitable wildfire exposure will result in structure loss……..By contrast, if the problem is identified as a home ignition, mitigation of the HIZ is the most cost-effective investment for reducing home destruction, and this can be augmented with other investments.”

 (Calkin etal, 2013 p 5-6).

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MidPen Approves 40 Year Vision Plan With Fire Risk Reduction Components

Tthe MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District Board of Directors approved a new 40-year Vision Plan January 29, 2014.  Among the Vision Plan's priorities are Fire Management, Fire Risk Reduction, and Fire Risk Reduction on open space properties in San Mateo County.

The Vision Plan includes a slate of 25 tier-one regional open space projects ranging from opening preserves and building trail connections to improving water quality, protecting the coastline, restoring forestlands, and creating wildlife corridors in an increasingly urbanized region.

A complete list of the approved Vision Plan Priority Actions can be found at

Fire Safe San Mateo County is proud of its strong working relationship with "MidPen" and looks forward to a continued partership in reducing the risk of wildfire on MidPen lands and the adjacent San Mateo County communities.


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Fire Safe San Mateo Awarded Grant for Fuel Reduction and Education

Today the California Fire Safe Council announced grants for 38 projects spanning 30 counties in California and Nevada that support CFSC’s efforts to support fire risk reduction activities by landowners and residents in at-risk communities. CFSC received 84 applications, and awarded 38 grants.

Fire Safe San Mateo County was awarded $58,580 with a match of $65,200 for education and fuel reduction. The grant will help fund and expand an existing chipper program, providing additional vegetation removal and chipping county wide, and will fund a variety of related print and web based communication tools. No other proposals in San Mateo County were funded

California Fire Safe Council (CFSC) is pleased to announce its 2014 Grants Clearinghouse Awards. Executive Director Margaret Grayson announced grants for 38 projects spanning 30 counties in California that support CFSC’s efforts to support fire risk reduction activities by landowners and residents in at-risk communities in California and Nevada. The decisions that have been made are preliminary funding decisions at this time based on funding and the next steps in the Clearinghouse.

CFSC received 84 applications totaling $8 million in grant requests and over $10 million in matching dollars. The projects are being funded by grants from the Cooperative Fire Program of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Pacific Southwest Region, through the California Fire Safe Council.

Click here to view the grant summary report on the 2014 Grant Awards and the list of preliminary funded projects.

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Firewise Encourages Homeowners to Focus on the "Home Ignition Zone" This Fall

With the change in seasons, fall is an excellent time to focus “inward” on the areas closest to your home, according to the latest issue of the Firewise “How-To” Newsletter.

In the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ), debris can accumulate creating a greater risk in the event that embers or flames come near.  While the Home Ignition Zone typically includes property within 150 feet of your home, concentrating on the areas closest to your home – 0 to 5 feet from structures – can make a tremendous difference when it comes to preventing the risk of fire.

For more safety tips and to read the full story, check out the Fall 2013 issue of the Firewise “How-To” Newsletter

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How the Fire Service, Local Officials, and the Public Can Work Together to Withstand the Devastating Effects of a Wildland Fire

They are called grass fires, forest fires, wildland fires, or by a variety of names. Yet, no matter the name, they pose an evolving threat to lives and property in an increasing number of communities across the United States.

Homes near natural areas, the wildland/urban interface (WUI), are beautiful places to live. These pristine environments add to the quality of life of residents and are valued by community leaders seeking to develop new areas of opportunity and local tax revenue, but these areas are not without risk. Fires are a part of the natural ecology, living adjacent to the wilderness means living with a constant threat of fires. Fire, by nature, is an unpredictable and often uncontrollable force.

The concept of fire-adapted communities (FACs) holds that, with proper community-wide preparation, human populations and infrastructure can withstand the devastating effects of a wildland fire, reducing loss of life and property.

This goal depends on strong and collaborative partnerships between agencies and the public at the State, Federal, and local levels, with each accepting responsibility for their part.

Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities frames the FAC concept and current efforts to define its scope, explain the roles that groups can adopt to improve their fire safety, and provide guidance on future steps. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) believes that by reviewing the roles and responsibilities each group can adopt now, communities will become better prepared to realize the FAC goal in the future.

Download the U.S. Fire Administration "Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities" Handbook.


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NFPA makes important safety codes and standards available for free online

As part of its commitment to enhancing public safety, NFPA makes its codes and standards available online to the public for free. Online access to NFPA's consensus documents conveniently places important safety information on the desktops of traditional users as well as others who have a keen interest. NFPA is committed to serving the public's increasing interest in technical information, and online access to these key codes is a valuable resource.

To review codes and standards online:

  • View the full list of NFPA's codes and standards.
  • Select the document you want to review.
  • Select the edition of the document you want to review.
  • Click the "Free access" link (under the document title)
  • You will be asked to "sign-in" or create a profile to access the document in read-only format.


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NY Times: INTO THE WILDFIRE - What science is learning about fire and how to live with it.

NY Times: INTO THE WILDFIRE - What science is learning about fire and how to live with it.

‘By suppressing fires ... we’re saving the landscape for the worst conditions,’ a fire researcher says. ‘We need to choose good fire over bad fire, and if we understand spread we can make better choices.’

...Fire has always been a part of the natural ecology — many plant species evolved in direct response to it and couldn’t survive without it; when the sap of some pine cones melts, for example, seeds are released. But the reflexive practice of putting out all fires, which has dominated national policy for so many decades, has turned much of the American West into a tinderbox. On June 30, in the deadliest incident in wild-land firefighting in decades, 19 of the country’s most highly trained, highly skilled firefighters died in a fire near Yarnell, Ariz. While awaiting the findings from a federal investigation (expected this month), many have asked whether unexpected changes in the wind’s direction and speed, which abruptly exposed the men to the fire, were simply the most immediate factors contributing to their deaths. The Phoenix New Times, for instance, reported that the team should not have been deployed at all that day because its members may have already reached the maximum number of consecutive days they were allowed to be in the field. What’s clear, however, is that the buildup of flammable materials in the area and the ongoing drought in the Southwest contributed to the fire’s intensity. And it was a fire the firefighters were combating there in order to protect a housing subdivision on the outskirts of town...

...We probably wouldn’t be as concerned about fires that are getting bigger and spreading farther, of course, were it not for the increasing intrusion of people and buildings into fire-prone landscapes. This development creates what fire experts call the wild-land-urban interface, or WUI (pronounced WOO-ee), and from Bozeman, Mont., to Laurel Canyon in California, more and more of us want to live there, with forested views and coyotes for neighbors — but without the fire. About 80,000 wildfires in the United States were designated for suppression each year between 1998 and 2007, and only an average of 327 were allowed to burn. Yet trying to put out all those fires leads inevitably to more intense, more dangerous and more expensive fires later on. The accumulation of dead wood and unburned “ladder fuels” — what ecologists call lower vegetation that can carry fire to taller trees — turn lower-intensity fires into hotter fires that kill entire stands of trees that otherwise might survive.

Read more of this excellent article in the New York Times Magazine September 22, 2013 Online.

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Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone Courses to be Held in Sacramento

Destructive wildfires are affecting many areas across California, threatening communities, risking the lives of firefighters, disrupting residents through evacuations and home losses, and creating millions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses and valuable natural resources. The good news is, there are simple and often inexpensive ways to make homes safer from wildfire. With an understanding of wildfire hazards and mitigation strategies, community residents can effectively lower the wildfire risk and losses to their homes, neighborhoods and our environment.

The Sacramento (California) Metropolitan Fire Department has received a FEMA grant to complete Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) and as a part of that effort is offering the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) one-day “Assessing Residential Wildfire Hazards” and two-day “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone”mitigation training to fire service professionals, stakeholders, proactive community residents and others interested in understanding and acting to reduce wildfire losses.

These national courses are taught by experienced wildland fire specialists and offer factual wildfire mitigation solutions and action strategies based on research and post fire investigations. Participants will learn the mitigation techniques that are most effective in reducing wildfire losses in the home ignition zone (HIZ) – the home and the surrounding 100 to 200 feet. The courses will also focus on both the physical and behavioral sciences in completing successful wildfire mitigation.

Register today for workshops beginning October 1.

For more information and to find the nearest workshop location, visit

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Power Lines and Fire: NPS "Fire and Fuel News"

Power lines are part of the fire environment, especially in the wildland-urban interface. They are a recurring cause of wildfires in California, and along the coast, where lightning fires are rare, power lines are one of the most common ways that wildfires start. For example, power lines were the ignition source for several recent fires in the S.F. Bay Area:
  • May 10 - Phleger Estate near Woodside, CA - 0.5 acres 
  • June 14 - Highway 1 in Olema, CA - 1.5 acres
  • July 4 - Mt. Tam near Kenfield,  CA - 1 acre
Fortunately, these fires did not start under extreme weather conditions and were quickly suppressed.  
Power Line Fire Prevention Field Guide has been developed for California which includes the public resource code requirements designed to prevent power line fires.  The introduction sets the stage for understanding how high winds, in combination with power lines have led to some of California's largest wildfires.
Read more about power lines and wildfires in the National Park Service's July 2013 "Fire and Fuel News." 
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