SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) — Marin County has been one of the most proactive areas for wildfire prevention in the nation so, on Saturday in San Rafael, people celebrated that fact with a new event called the “Ember Stomp,” a festival for residents to explore ways to stay fire-safe.
When it comes to wildfires, Marin residents have been lucky. They haven’t had a disastrous wildfire yet but everyone who came to the Ember Stomp festival, knows how real the danger is.
“There used to be a Marin home show and Fire Safe Marin would have one booth at the home show and, now, the home show is all Fire Safe Marin,” said Battalion Chief Todd Lando, with the Central Marin fire department. “So, it says that there’s a lot of concern.”
There was music and food and even a petting zoo where kids could meet other “kids” (baby goats) that keep the hills free of brush and weeds.
Mostly the event was a way to bring everyone involved in fire safety together in one place.
Marcy Betlach lives next to a wooded open space which, she said, puts her on edge in more ways than one.
“When the wind picks up, sometimes it’s kind of hard to sleep, you know?” she said.
At the festival, she was on a mission to deal with one of the most common wildfire entry points.
“I’m going to replace my vents in case the embers come blowing down my driveway,” she said. She admitted it was something she never worried about in the past. “This is all new,” she said. “There’s a lot of awareness out there and I’m paying attention.”
Industry is paying attention too and many new firefighting companies have sprung up to meet the demand.
Fortress Fire Retardant Services displayed a huge tanker rig they call “Big Red” which, for a price, can hose down landscaping and even entire homes with a special retardant coating that pulls moisture from the surrounding air.
“When the wildfire’s there and you’ve got the embers hitting, they’re going to be hitting a wet retardant and it’s going to retard that from starting a fire,” said Fortress’s Travis Marsh.
The basic lessons are becoming familiar: Keep flammable material from directly touching the structure and clear foliage at least five feet out. The plants used in landscaping matter too but Sophia Porter, an educator with the UC Cooperative Extension, says that even if people can’t do everything, they should at least do something.
“I really want to empower the community and people in general so that they know that any little step they do is a step in the right direction.” Porter said.
Marin County can’t avoid wildfire forever but the message of Ember Stomp was that anything done today — no matter how small — can have an impact on what happens tomorrow.
“There’s going to be a fire at some point,” Chief Lando said. “But the damage will be less than it would have been had we not held this kind of organizing and had we not brought people together like this.”