Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District is proud of our recent accomplishments. Here is apartial listing of projects we;'ve completes, goals we've achieves, and accomplishmnets which benefit our community's safety and preparedness:
Fire Prevention Projects Completed in 2017
In 2017 the SHFPD implemented the Strategic Plan by successfully completing the following prevention projects:
- Achieved certification as a Firewise® Community by the National Fire Protection Association;
- Conducted comprehensive on-site inspections for all 850 parcels in the SHFPD with follow-up Code enforcement;
- Coordinated four separate chipper events, including curbside pick-ups;
- Cleared vegetation and improved access to Mather Fire Road;
- Cleared vegetation on Upper Fawn Drive and adjacent County Open Space;
- Assisted with removal of longstanding hazardous roadside pampas grass at the Community Center;
- Mailed defensible space and evacuation materials and held first-ever Safety Fair;
- Conducted first-ever major evacuation exercise;
- Financed and managed winter sand bag program; and
- Applied for and received multiple community fire prevention grants
New 2018 Projects
In 2018, the SHFPD will be supporting several new large-scale fire prevention projects. We will of course continue to organize and support parcel assessments in the spring, chipper events, fire road maintenance, educational mailings, and an evacuation exercise tentatively in August. We take seriously our mission to safeguard our community and look forward to your continued support and participation.
Cooperative Fire Hazard Reduction Project
Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District, Marin County Open Space, San Domenico School, Triple C Ranch and Rocking H Ranch have agreed to a Cooperate on Wildfire Hazard Reduction in Sleepy Hollow.
Our Mission and goals can only be accomplished with the support and partnerships of the neighboring properties. Under the leadership and direction of the SHFPD, on January 11, 2018, the Marin County Open Space, San Domenico School, Triple C Ranch, and Rocking H Ranch (Partners), and SHFPD, five (5) public agencies and private property owners, formally agreed to jointly implement Fire Protection Strategies that reduce fire risks in the Community. The Fire Risk Reduction Strategy is described in the SHFPD Strategic Plan.
The Sleepy Hollow residential community and San Domenico Schools students, teachers, and staff live and teach in a wildland-urban interface zone defined as the area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland. The wildland-urban interface zone creates an environment in which fire can move readily from vegetation fuels to buildings. The Strategic Plan recommends creating a reduced fuel area around buildings and property that reduces the probability that the fire will reach the structure and gives firefighters a better chance to fight and control the fire.
The Partners and SHFPD performed a survey of the properties and assessed fire fuel hazards on each property. A major shared goal of the project is to create a ridge-top shaded fuel break. The Partners have elected to work with Star Creek Land Stewards, a land stewardship and contract grazing company established in the hills of Star Creek Ranch, which is located in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. They use herds of Spanish X Boer goats in a managed grazing operation to decrease brush density, increase the diversity of native perennial grasses and prepare the soil for forest restoration. The effects of seasonal grazing, year after year for nearly a decade, has shown visible improvement in the diversity of vegetation, the encouragement of healthy grass stands, native wildflowers, a reduction in percent cover of brush species, and vitalized soils.
On the San Domenico School property a Phase 1 program will significantly reduce the fire risk by clearing dry grass, brush and dead leaves, remove downed trees and limbs, and trim tree branches to provide a minimum six feet distance from ground to tree (fire fuel). San Domenico School has agreed to clear a 300 feet fire fuel zone, 30 acres, on the hills around the perimeter of the campus. There will be two steps in clearing the 30 acres of fire fuel. Step 1 will be to use goat grazing to eat grasses and small bushes, including poison oak. Step 2 is to use the Conservation Corps or contractors to cut, move and chip dead trees, trunks, and tree limbs on the ground. The contractors will trim limbs to provide a minimum 6 ft. clear from the ground to the tree branches so ground fire cannot ignite the trees.
The herd of 400 – 500 goats will be transported from the Los Banos to San Domenico, using a livestock truck. Onsite herders and working dogs manage of the herd. The herders are livestock specialists from Peru that specialize in working with sheep and goat grazing operations. The herders live on site 24/7, provide continuous care for the animals, and stake and set perimeter fences to concentrate the herd in closed in zones so the grazing removes all grasses, weeds and most small shrubs. Goat grazing is a very environmentally friendly, sustainable and an effective method to clear ground.
The herder’s responsibility includes survey and assess mobile pasture perimeters, installing the electric fence, contain the grazing pasture, protect the goats from predator animals, manage watering of the herd, and monitor animal health. The herders use professionally trained Border Collies to help manage goat moves and grazing. The herders also use Anatolian and Great Pyrenees guard dogs who integrate and live with the herds to protect, alarm and guard the herd from predator animals.
The goats and herders will be working on all four (4) public and private property sites starting in April 2018. San Domenico will be using these animal grazing as a student’s education opportunity.
San Domenico School Fire Roads
In August, San Domenico met with MCFD Chief Randy Engler, MCFD Battalion Chief Christie Neill and SHFPD Richard Shorthall to discuss a plan to restore fire truck access to the ridge roads on the two local fire roads, Loma Alta Open Space Fire Road and Sleepy Hollow/Terra Linda Open Space Fire Road. Both these roads were poorly constructed years ago so storm water stayed on the road and causes deep and wide erosion gullies on the roads, which prevents vehicle access.
San Domenico School hired a local excavation company, Greener Excavating & Construction to repair, grade and shape these two roads. The road grading and shaping implemented here is similar to annual MMWD watershed and MCFD County Open Space fire roads repair and maintenance. The shaping restores natural water drainage by directing storm water off the road and onto the landscape of the hillside. The contractor commenced repair grading of Loma Alta Open Space Fire Road on January 2. Rocking H Ranch allowed the bulldozer operator to drive over one (1) mile on the Rocking H ridge road from Loma Alta Road to the top of the Sleepy Hollow\Terra Linda Open Space Fire Road. The rough grading and water drainage shaping of both roads is now complete. The shaping will greatly reduce road erosion and restores MCFD access. Sleepy Hollow neighbors can see Road Closed signs that keep traffic off the roads during the rain season until the grading disturbed loose soils consolidate. San Domenico cleared a few trees limbs to provide the needed 14 ft. vertical clearance so fire truck access is restored on both roads. RVFD and MCFD can now drive up to the high ridge open space that surrounds Sleepy Hollow.
Firewise Community Recognition
In 2016, Sleepy Hollow became a nationally recognized Firewise USA Community by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This recognition was renewed in 2017.
SHFPD adopted our Wildfire Hazard and Wildland Urban Interface Area Assessment and Report at the March 11, 2017 meeting. The comprehensive document assesses the hazards and risk associated with wildfires in Sleepy Hollow, and provides recommedations for mitigation measures.
In June 2017, the SHFPD Board of Directors, with input from our residents, adopted a 5-year Strategic Plan to guide the District's community engagement, planning, and preparedness activities
On August 5, 2017 the SHFPD held an evacuation exercise in the north west quadrant of Sleepy Hollow. The event was a huge success by any standard. Almost 200 people from seventy-nine (79) households participated, representing approximately 40% of the total residences in the designated Exercise quadrant. The exercise included the following public safety agencies: Ross Valley Fire Department, Marin County Fire Department, Marin County Office of Emergency Services, Marin County Sheriff's Office, Highway Patrol, Central Marin Police, Red Cross, Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT), and Pacific Gas & Electric. All of these agencies were impressed with the extraordinary rate of participation and the quality of the engagement from residents at the Safety Fair. The Sleepy Hollow Homes Association participated in the exercise planning and facilitated use of the Community Center. Another Evacuation Exercise and Safety Fair each year targeting a different Sleepy Hollow quadrant.
On August 5, 2017 the SHFPD held a Safety Fair at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center as part of the annual Evacuation Exercise. The following public safety agencies staffed booths and provided valuable information to residents: Sleepy Hollow Homes Association, Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District, FireSafe Marin, Ross Valley Fire Department, Marin County Office of Emergency Services, Red Cross, Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT), and Pacific Gas & Electric. All of these agencies were impressed with the extraordinary rate of participation and the quality of the engagement from residents at the Safety Fair. The highlight of the Fair was a 3-D “SandTable” showing a detailed representation of Sleepy Hollow. The fire scenario for the exercise was projected onto the table and residents could see how the fire grew over time. Safety Fairs will be held each year as part of our annual Evacuation Exercise Program.
Sand Bag Station
The SHFPD formally took over responsibility for the Community Sand Bag Station in the fall of 2015. The District created a new station at the Community Center, a more central and convenient location. The District ensured that the station had sand and bags available for our residents. During busy times, the station was often staffed by representatives of our local Youth2Work Program (Y2W). Special recognition is extended to the Y2W founder John Hanley for his dedication to keeping the station fully stocked. The District plans to supply and manage the station each year during the rainy season.
The SHFPD has taken the lead to form an ad-hoc group representing the large landowners in Sleepy Hollow. This includes the Marin County Open Space District, San Domenico School, Triple C Ranch and the Rocking H Ranch. These properties own the ridge tops which surround Sleepy Hollow as well as a substantial portion of the total acreage in Sleepy Hollow. The goal of the group is to work cooperatively to create fuel breaks along our ridge tops to stop fires from either entering or leaving Sleepy Hollow. The group is planning to bring in livestock, primarily goats, to help reduce fuel. In addition, we will work with the Tam Fire Crew and landscape companies to remove larger vegetation when necessary.
The District takes pride in the prudent management of its finances. The vast majority of the District's revenue comes from property taxes. This has proved to be a very stable revenue source which has grown on average in excess of 5% over many years. Through prudent and conservative fund management, the District has accumulated substantial reserves. By Board Resolution, these reserves have been placed in four accounts: Operations, Potential Pension Liability, FireWise Projects, and Unassigned.
Over the last two years, the District has also applied for and received several vegetation management grants. The District continues to aggressively pursue new grant funding sources and recently applied for a $799,000 matching grant from the US Forest Service to construct shaded fuel breaks areound the perimeter of the valley.
The SHFPD has provided educational materials to residents in multiple formats. Our website has safety related articles and links. We routinely mail materials to all residents and in 2017 began a newsletter which has covered topics such as evacuation planning and tips for creating defensible space. We have created a new comprehensive disaster annex which is part of the new Sleepy Hollow Directory which will shortly be mailed ot all residents. In 2016 we held a landscape workshop focused on creative ways to make defensible space using fire resistant plants and related vegetation.
Beginning late May-early June 2017, a team of fire inspectors from Marin County and Ross Valley Fire Departments conducted annual wildfire hazard inspections of all developed parcels in Sleepy Hollow. These inspections were more thorough than in years past, providing homeowners with valuable written advice on ways to reduce the hazard near your home. Data collected will help us map and better understand the risk across the whole community. All properties in Sleepy Hollow received a notice of inspection, regardless of whether violations are found.
Property owners who received a hazard violation notice have 30 days to correct the issues before a re-inspection occurs. Although defensible space and other measures specified in the notices are required by law, we intend to use this opportunity to work with all property owners to collaboratively reduce risk while educating residents about wildfire hazards.
A Defensible Space brochure and newsletter explaining the program was mailed to all Sleepy Hollow residents in early May. Please use the tips on the inside of this pamphlet to selectively reduce flammable vegetation on your property, and take advantage of our free chipper days to help with disposal. Don’t forget to use fire resistant plants (www.firesafemarin.org/plants), and design your landscaping to beautify your home while improving fire resistance