Wildfire preparedness is the focus of ‘Ember Stomp’ in Marin County

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) – Marin County has been one of the most proactive areas for wildfire prevention in the country. So on Saturday in San Rafael, people celebrated that fact with a new event called “Ember Stomp,” a festival for residents to explore ways to stay safe from the fires.

When it comes to wildfires, residents of Marin have been lucky. They haven’t had a disastrous wildfire yet, but anyone who’s been to the Ember Stomp festival knows how real the danger is.

“We used to have a Marin house show and Fire Safe Marin had a booth at the house show and now the house show is all Fire Safe Marin,” said Battalion Chief Todd Lando, of the Central Marin Fire Department. “So that says there’s a lot of concern.”

There was music and food and even a petting zoo where kids could meet other “kids” (baby goats) who keep the hills free of brush and weeds.

The event was primarily a way to bring everyone involved in fire safety together in one place.

Marcy Betlach lives next to a wooded open space which she says gets on her nerves in more ways than one.

“When the wind picks up, sometimes it’s a little hard to sleep, you know?” she says.

At the festival, she was on a mission to deal with one of the most common entry points for wildfires.

“I’m going to replace my vents in case the embers blow into my driveway,” she said. She admitted it was something she had never worried about in the past. “It’s brand new,” she said. “There’s a lot of awareness out there and I’m paying attention.”

The industry is also paying attention and many new firefighting companies have sprung up to meet the demand.

Fortress Fire Retardant Services showed off a massive cistern rig they call “Big Red” that, for a price, can water landscaping and even entire homes with a special fire-retardant coating that pulls moisture out of the ambiant air.

“When the wildfire is there and the embers hit, they’re going to hit a wet retarder and that’s going to delay the ignition of a fire,” said Travis Marsh of Fortress.

The basic lessons become familiar: Prevent flammable materials from directly touching the structure and clear foliage at least five feet away. Plants used in landscaping are also important, but Sophia Porter, an educator at UC Cooperative Extension, says that while people can’t do everything, they should at least do something.

“I really want to empower the community and people in general so they know that every little step they take is a step in the right direction.” Porter said.

Marin County can’t avoid wildfires forever, but Ember Stomp’s message was that anything done today – no matter how small – can impact what happens tomorrow.

“There is going to be a fire at some point,” Chief Lando said. “But the damage will be less than it would have been if we hadn’t organized this type of organization and brought people together like this.”

Leave a Comment