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How Does this Wildfire Prevention Plan Impact Me?

Posted on February 6, 2019

Community Meeting Wildfire Prevention and Protection Action Plan

About the Draft Wildfire Prevention and Protection Action Plan 

Preventing the start of a wildfire and reducing the speed and scale in which one may spread will be a community effort. Part of this effort relies on property owners and businesses completing potential changes to their landscaping. Future resales of properties and certain remodel projects will be impacted by new requirements that are meant to reduce fire risk and spread and make it easier to evacuate in case of an emergency. 

Here are some of the changes in the plan that will directly impact the residents of San Rafael. You can read more about the details of each item here or in the plan by the references item number. Please let us know what you think of these changes though our feedback form!

Together, we can create a more resilient San Rafael!

  1. Highly flammable vegetation will have to be removed from your property.
  2. Wildfire building codes will apply to all parcels.  
  3. New limitations on vegetation within five feet of your structures. 
  4. Shake and wooden roofs will have to be replaced by January 1, 2029.  
  5. Increased enforcement to remove unlawful encampments and ignition sources in open space.  
  6. “Parking box” program in residential hillside neighborhoods to assure access and egress in emergencies. 
  7. Easier evacuation through garage doors encouraged through backup battery program.  
  8. Requiring 2 gates in any fence for designated parcels.  
  9. Vegetation management plans will be required for some remodel projects and for property sales or transfers.  
  10. Short-term rental units will be required to have posted emergency procedures and fire safety information  


Highly flammable vegetation will have to be removed from your property  (#1, #2 and #3) – All property owners in San Rafael, both public and private, would be required to remove all Juniper, Bamboo, Acacia, and Italian Cypress from their property by July 1, 2020. 

  • Why? While no plant is “fire proof” there are many attractive plants that are less fire prone. Removing some of the most pervasive and fire prone plants from San Rafael will reduce wildfire risk and spread. 

Wildfire building codes will apply to all parcels. (#24) – Requirements that are currently applied only to parcels in the WUI would be applicable to all parcels within the City of San Rafael. For example, if you are replacing the windows throughout your home, they will need to meet the fire resistant building material requirements as outlined in California Fire Code Section 7A. 

  • Why? Wildfire knows no boundaries. Many of the large wildfires in the past few years spread by embers, not flame fronts or radiant heat. This means homes outside the WUI also need to have defensible space to help reduce fire spread and structure loss.  

Limitations on vegetation on the perimeter of your residence  (#4) – No vegetation except for 3-inch grass or succulents around the perimeter of your home. Vines and ivy will have to be well-irrigated and maintained. Mulch or similar ground covering is only permitted when no contact is made with combustible exterior walls or plants. 

  • Why? Many of the large fires were spread by embers starting many small fires. If these embers land in combustible material near your home it is almost certain to ignite. Likewise, if a plant below a window catches fire, it is likely to break the glass and spread the fire inside. Reducing fuel around your home will reduce the likelihood of an ember lighting your home on fire.  

Shake and wooden roofs prohibited (#6)– All shake and wooden roofs will be required to be replaced by January 1, 2029 or at time of resale, whichever is first. 

  • Why? Wooden roofs are much more susceptible to ignition of embers or other fire debris. Replacing wooden roofs with fire rated materials makes home ignition less likely and also reduces fire spread and helps protect your neighbors.  

Unlawful encampments and ignition sources ( #8, supported by #10) – Continue immediate removal of flammable items and ignition sources posing a fire threat. Continue collaborative effort and improve coordination between Police Rangers, Public Works, Fire, and vegetation contractors to remove homeless encampments in open spaces. 

  • Why? A number of the small recent wildfires have been caused by homeless encampments. By eliminating potential ignition sources and increasing enforcement we hope to deter unlawful encampments and prevent more fires. 

“Parking box” program in residential hillside neighborhoods  (#25) – Parking will only be permitted in designated “boxed” areas which are designed to assure emergency vehicles can access all streets in San Rafael. 

  • Why? Our Municipal Code currently prohibits parking on narrow street unless six (6) feet from center is maintained unobstructed. This standard is confusing, hard to enforce, and does not guarantee fire engines and other large vehicles can safely access all areas of San Rafael. The “parking box” concept is easy to observe and understand for both residents and visitors.  

Evacuation through garage doors (#16)– The city will develop a program to encourage the implementation of garage door battery backup systems. 

  • Why? Power failures, impacting the functionality of automatic garage doors, can make evacuation by car impossible during an emergency. Effective, July 1, 2019, Senate Bill 969 requires all new and replacement automatic garage doors to have a backup battery or other means that assures the garage door can open in the event of a power failure 

Requiring 2 gates in any fence in designated areas (#28)– Designated parcels would be required to have more than one means and direction of egress in the event of a wildfire or other emergency. Fences over two (2) feet tall will be required to have two gates, accessing different cardinal directions installed. This will include new fences, replaced fences, and at property resale. 

  • Why? This would help assure that multiple escape routes exist in the most vulnerable areas and provide ease of access for firefighters. 

Vegetation management plans required for some remodel projects and property sales or transfers (#26 and #27) – All new construction, home improvements impacting more than 25% of the structure, replacing roofing or windows, all community owned space (i.e. HOA shared land), etc. Vegetation management plan approval will be part of residential building resale (RBR) inspections or if the property is transferred to a new owner (inheritance, donated, etc.) or the zoning or use of the building changes (including listed for short-term rental). 

  • Why? An improved and more accessible VMP process will help more homeowners establish and maintain fire resistant landscaping. Fire-resistant landscaping will help keep the whole community safe by reducing the chances of ignition and fire spread.  

Short-term rental protections (#29) – Require all short-term rental units to post emergency procedures, information on signing up for emergency alerts, and fire safety information. 

  • Why? Short-term rentals represent a unique fire risk for a variety of reasons. Those using short-term rentals may be from out of the area and unfamiliar with wildfire risk and safety procedures. The information will help assure the safety of visitors and provide important fire prevention information to visitors unfamiliar with wildfire risks and necessary ignition precautions 

Tell us what you think of the plan

Read the entire Draft Wildfire Prevention and Protection Action Plan and provide feedback on the plan here:

Attend a Community Meeting to learn more

Attend our Community Meeting on Monday, February 11 at 7:00pm in the City Council Chambers.

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