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Wildfire: A Real and Growing Threat in Marin County

One of the risks of living in WUI areas is the increased likelihood of wildfire. Photo: Snappygoat.com
One of the risks of living in WUI areas is the increased likelihood of wildfire. Photo: Snappygoat.com

Wildfire is a very real and growing threat to all of us who live in Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) areas. Recommendations for fire-prone communities are rapidly evolving.  The Fire-Smart Landscaping Planning and Maintaining section provide guidelines to help you adapt and maintain your landscape to reduce fuel while preserving the ecological well being of the environment.  


WUI: the Wildland Urban Interface

The wildland-urban interface is the area where urban and suburban development meets undeveloped areas containing natural vegetation. It can be a beautiful, quiet place to live, but with the benefits of being near nature come risks. One of the most pressing is wildfire.

Within the greater WUI, areas are classified as to their relative fire hazard severity zones. Eighty percent of Marin County is designated as having moderate to very high fire hazard severity ratings. These are areas in mountains, foothills, and canyons where adjacency to vegetated areas, difficulty of access, and weather patterns pose greater risk of wildfire. CAL FIRE and the local fire response agency have determined where these areas are and require the management of vegetative fuels near buildings.


Facing the Facts on Fire

California wildfires are becoming more frequent, intense, and destructive. There are many reasons why: more wildland vegetation, more development in the WUI, and the pervasive effects of climate change, which means more heat over longer periods, along with more wind and less moisture.

Embers are the most significant cause of home ignition in wildfires. Embers are small pieces of burning material that can travel more than a mile from a wildfire. They can create spot fires when they land on combustible materials such as dry leaves in your gutter.

Fire starts when oxygen and heat come in contact with fuel. Fuel is anything that burns. Don’t be fuelish! Common sources of fuel during a wildfire include:

  • Dry or dead trees, shrubs, perennials
  • Mulch
  • Garden tools and brooms
  • Plastic waste bins
  • Garden and patio furniture and cushions
  • Jute or natural fiber door mats
  • Stacks of wood