Beginning late May-early June 2017, a team of fire inspectors from Marin County and Ross Valley Fire Departments are conducting annual wildfire hazard inspections of all developed parcels in Sleepy Hollow. These inspections will be 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 will receive a notice of inspection, regardless of whether violations are found.
If you receive a hazard violation notice, you’ll 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
WHAT Authority Do YOu Have To Inspect/Enter My Property?
The authority to inspect properties for compliance with fire safety laws in Sleepy Hollow comes from PRC 4119 ("The department, or its duly authorized agent, shall enforce the state forest and fire laws. The department may inspect all properties, except the interior of dwellings, subject to the state forest and fire laws, for the purpose of ascertaining compliance with such laws"). The Ross Valley Fire Chief authorizes these inspections.
The inspectors do not enter a property without permission. They are trained to walk up to a front door (through an unlocked front gate at the street, if present, under rules of curtilage), and knock to introduce themselves. If no adult is present, they have two options: 1) inspect the property as visible from the front door or public areas such as from the roadway, or 2) come back later. Under no circumstances do the inspectors enter locked or gated areas of a property without permission of a resident or landowner, and they don't "peek" over fences to see a backyard - unless the property is plainly visible from a common area.
What SHOULD I DO IF I RECEIVED A VIOLATION NOTICE?
- Correct the issues noted - check www.firesafemarin.org/defensible-space for tips on complying with the law and creating Defensible Space.
- Don't forget about our chipper days July 1-2 to help dispose of the vegetation you cut.
The Violation Notice Said to Cover My Woodpile with Fire Resistant Material
Firewood can be moved inside a protected structure (a garage or shed with defensible space, and screened vents, for example) or as your question suggests, covered with a fire resistant material. The goal is to prevent embers from being blown into the woodpile during a fire, so it's important to cover the pile tightly, top to ground, and secure it from being blown off/open during a fire.
While we don't have a specific recommendation for a vendor or brand of tarps, this may be a good place to start:
A treated cotton canvas may be the best choice. Typical "poly" tarps available at a hardware store are not adequate, as embers burn right through them.
It's worth noting that this law, passed at the state level, is based on ample research which shows a large number of home ignitions during wildfires as a result of woodpiles.
Why Do We Need these INspections in Sleepy Hollow?
Sleepy Hollow is at risk of wildfire! All parcels in Sleepy Hollow are considered State Responsibility Areas (SRA) and are required to comply with state and local laws to reduce wildfire hazard. This is not new - these laws have been in place and enforced here for decades. In fact, Ross Valley Fire Department conducts wildfire hazard inspection EVERY year in Sleepy Hollow.
In March 2017, Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District (SHFPD) adopted the Sleepy Hollow Wildfire Hazard and Wildland Urban Interface Area Assessment and Report. This comprehensive report analyzes risk, identifies specific hazards, and outlines steps needed to help reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires in Sleepy Hollow.
Following two public planning meetings, SHFPD approved the implementation of the report’s recommendations, beginning with additional free chipper days, wildfire education programs, parcel-by-parcel hazard inspections, and many other preparedness and prevention programs recommended in the report.
Why Are the Fire Inspectors Wearing Marin County Fire Department Uniforms?
In order to complete 826 inspections in a one-week period, SHFPD requested the assistance of Marin County Fire Department (MCFD). They were able to provide a team of trained inspectors, who under the authority of the Fire Chief of RVFD, are inspecting properties for compliance with the CA Public Resource Code (PRC 4291) and CA Board of Forestry Standards, and locally adopted codes that apply to homes in Sleepy Hollow and State Responsibility Areas.