Friends of the Mark West Watershed  

FMWW's Mission: 
We are a community dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring the Mark West Creek and its watershed as a natural and community resource.


Living with Fire:
FMWW Resources

Upper Mark West Fire Safe Council
Read the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) here.  
CWPP Talking Points  
Instructional videos specific to the Mark West Watershed  
Living with Fire Symposium  

CWPP Community Wildfire Protection Plan Talking Points

The Upper Mark West Watershed is being helped by a grant with Fire Wise Sonoma to create a Wildfire Protection Plan for our area. Other partners include Rincon Valley Fire Dept. and Cal FIRE.

The Plan will:

• Assess fire danger in your neighborhood and create a prioritized list of project ideas to address those dangers.

• The completed plan will make it possible for us to receive funding to help us get the work done.  

• The plan also educates homeowners on best practices for hardening structures and creating defensible space.

Our watershed is huge – so we have broken down the area into road groups/neighborhoods. We need a few knowledgeable people from your neighborhood to help with the planning process.

Attend one two-hour meeting. Work with a couple of neighbors from your area (2 – 3) to complete a simple questionnaire. 

Meeting dates:
Thursday March 29 from 7 – 9   or
Sunday April 8 from 1 – 3

Sunday May 6th 1PM to 4PM

At Monan’s Rill Community Center 
7899 St. Helena Road
3.5 miles from Calistoga/ St. Helena rd intersection
There will be a final meeting to compile entire plan in early May. DATE to be announced.  Not mandatory to come to the May meeting – but it would be a good idea- get to meet the fire officials and see the whole plan. 

Our first task will be to create a risk assessment of our watershed.  We encourage you to enlist the help of your neighbors to help you think through these questions prior to our first meeting. The more engagement we can rally the better!

Prep for our CWPP Work:
Here is a list of questions to think about before our CWPP work begins. We are trying to paint a general picture of the conditions in our neighborhoods. Don’t fret if you cannot answer these with a lot of specificity. Our landscape and homes are very different.    During our meetings together, Caerleon will help us interpret how to best answer these for the purposes of the CWPP.

Access:  These questions have to do with the road conditions.  This is important for emergency vehicles to gain access to the area and for residents to be able to exit.

The assessment separates primary roads and secondary roads.

Primary Roads: These are roads most people use to access secondary homes.  Typically they are paved and maintained by the county.

How many primary roads in your area?  Does the Primary road go all the way through allowing for exit in two directions or does it dead end?  Does it loop?

How wide is the primary road?  More than 24 feet?  Between 20 – 24 feet? Less than 20 feet wide?

In general, what is the slope of the road?  5% or less?  More that 5%?  What is the slope in the steepest section?  How long is that section?

Secondary Roads: These are defined as smaller roads used to access homes and neighborhoods.  They may or may not be paved.  May or may not be maintained by the county.

At the narrowest point, secondary roads are:
More than 24 feet?  Between 20 – 24 feet? Less than 20 feet wide?

How do these roads end? Loop roads or cul-de-sac with outside radius 45’ or greater:
Dead–end roads: Length less than or more than 200’ in length

Slopes of Roads: 5% or less?  More that 5%?  If there is a section that is more than 5% grade – describe lit a bit. 

Road surface:  How many secondary roads are paved?  Most 80 – 100%, some are paved 50 – 79 % or less than 50%

Accessibility:  This has to do with how well a large fire truck can drive up your roads and if there are turn-outs so that two trucks can pass each other.

Which best describes the secondary roads in your area:
-Two wheel drive trucks can easily handle road surface and slope OR
  -Two trucks can pass by each other without having to pull over OR
-Narrow road and/or roadside vegetation make it difficult to pass . Vehicles can access turnouts every 25 feet or so OR
-Vehicles would have to back up more than 150’ to allow another vehicle to pass.

Bridges: How many roads have bridges?  Are the bridges rated for heavy vehicles? Are some bridges unrated? Are there wooden bridges? Are there wooden bridges on primary roads and secondary roads?

Gates: How many gates are in your area?  Do these gates have fire dept access systems (Knox boxes) Would locked gates impede emergency access or evacuation of residents?

Roadside Vegetation on Secondary Roads:
- Vegetation is cut as a shaded fuel brake:  grasses 4” or less. Trees and brush trimmed to provide 10’ clear from road side and branches are cleared up 15’  OR- Mostly well maintained – some areas need attention  OR- Tall grass, brush and trees border and overhang roadway

Signage:  Estimate the % in your area: 
Street signs: visible with reflective numbers on non-combustible posts; 
Address signs at driveways also with reflective numbers and non-combustible posts.

Built Environment:
% of buildiings built after 2007  (when new standards for fire were established)
% of buildings with fire non-combustible roofing
% of buildings with non-combustible siding
% of buildings with unenclosed, fire-prone features such as decks, fences etc

Utilities:  are utility lines above ground or underground?

Average parcel size in your area:  Less than 1 acre, 1 – 10 acres, more than 10 acres

Defensible Space Practices: Estimate the % of homes in your area that have established defensible space around their structures:   70% or more,  30 – 70 %,  less than 30%

Water Resources in your area that fire personnel could access in case of a fire:  What are the water resources?  Are there draftable ponds in your area?  Large water tanks? What other water resources would fire fighters access? Are there Hydrants within 500’ of structures with 500 gpm pressure?  Within 1000 ft?
Water source is 20 minutes away round trip OR 45 min away.

Fire Behavior: Fire will respond to steepness of terrain, and fuels and prevailing winds.
Describe the general topography of your area  (Describe the steepness of slopes, their aspect – Southern exposure tend to be drier and brushier – Northern Exposure tend to be wetter and have more forest cover.)     Describe what you know about past fires right in your area.  How did they start?  What direction did they travel?  What kind of vegetation was involved?

How would you describe the vegetation in your area?  Light, medium or high density?

What Situation best describes your area of the watershed?

1. Moderate slope; broken moderate fuels; some ladder fuels; composition of fuels is conducive to torching and spotting; conditions may lead to moderate suppression success; some fire history and/or moderate fire occurrence


2. Continuous fuels in close proximity to structures; composition of     fuels is conducive to crown fires or high intensity surface fires; steep slopes; predominately south aspects; dense fuels; heavy duff; prevailing wind exposure and/or ladder fuels that may render fire suppression ineffective. 

Please feel free to call or email me with any questions or concerns.
All my best –here’s to our future fire resilience!
Penny  Sirota penny (at)  (707) 537-1198

living with fire

Instructional Videos Specific to the Mark West Watershed

Four instructional video that everyone in the watershed needs to watch. (And a special "thank you" to Ken Zukin for his videography and editing!)

Video A:  A Wildfire History in the Upper Mark West Watershed

Marshal Turbeville gives a fascinating description of wildfire history in our area from a firefighter's perspective
This talk, given on Nov 8, 2016, is a prophetic and fascinating talk about fire behaviors right here.   

This presentation was given right after the Valley fire, and a year before the Tubbs fire of 2017. 
Many important fire factors are described in this talk that are important for us to consider as we go forward.

Video B: What is a Fire Adapted Community?
What is our Fire Hazard Rating?

Cal fire’s Vegetation Management Division Chief, Mike Wilson (now retired) for Sonoma/Napa/Lake Counties describes the definition and benefits of becoming a recognized “Fire Adapted Community.”   

Chief Wilson offers many suggestions and insights about living in a Wildland Urban Intermix with a rating of Very High Fire Hazard Severity. 

Description of levels of organization and where a CWPP fits in the mix (min 6:00 – 8:00) 

Suggested steps if dropped from Home Owners Insurance due to fire risk (min 23:00)

Fire Severity Mapping for the Upper Mark West:  (min 23:35)

Video C: Making your home defendable:  
“Start at your House and Work Out!”

Living in the Wildlands has responsibilities!

Cyndi Foreman from Rincon Valley Central Fire District and Caerleon Safford from Fire Safe Sonoma give a detailed presentation about all the things homeowners can do to harden their homes against fire.  

They also describe how to create defensible space around your homes.  

The good news:  the most effective fire protection steps are things you can do around your home!

Video D: Funding Opportunities for Fuels Reduction Work & Shaded Fuel Breaks

This video explores various Funding Opportunities for Fire Prevention and Fuels Reduction Work  on private forest lands, including: State Responsibility Areas (SRA grants) for organizations, and CFIP grants and EQIP grants for private landowners.  

The end of the video is a field trip to see an example of a Shaded Fuel Break.  

We discuss the purpose of shaded fuel breaks as well as what it takes to establish and maintain the work. 

living fire video


Promoting Fire-Resilient Communities and Landscapes in an Era of Global Change

In response to public demand for information on fire and building community resilience in the wake of the 2017 Wine Country wildfires, we co-produced a three-day Living with Fire in California’s Coast Ranges Symposium in May 2018.

The symposium included 22 presentations by CAL FIRE officials and national experts on fire ecology, meteorology, fire resilient building techniques, fire safe community strategies, and other topics.

It also featured a day of field trips, including to areas impacted by the Tubbs Fire and Nuns Fire. More than 400 people attended and participated in a public dialogue about the relationship between humans and fire in our region.

These expert presentations, and a selection of live videos produced by KRCB Northern California Public Media, are now available online. A proceedings document with presentation highlights and photos from the symposium and field trips are also now available. Here are some examples:

- Intro to fire ecology by Dr. Scott Stephens of UC Berkeley's Stephens Lab for fire science
- Creating defensible space by Ben Nicholls, CAL FIRE's pre-fire division chief for Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties
- Home design and retrofitting techniques for wildfire defense by Yana Valachovic, of UC Cooperative Extension
- Meteorology and weather associated with extreme wildfire, by Dr. Craig Clements of San Jose State University

Access these presentations and more at

We hope you'll find these resources helpful in furthering your understanding of wildfire and what agencies, communities, and citizens can do moving forward to enhance community resilience to fire. There is no single solution to solving this complex challenge—but by creating dialogue we can learn from the 2017 fires and work towards a safer future.


Proceedings - Living with Fire

Friends of the Mark West Watershed • 6985 Saint Helena Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Email • Tel: 707-538-5307 • Fax: 707-595-5322

Friends of the Mark West Watershed is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Your contribution is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
FMWW’s Federal ID number is  81-2838263.

The views expressed on this website reflect those of the submitting writer(s).
They do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Friends of the Mark West Watershed or its members.
The FMWW does not warrant or assume legal liability or responsibility for
the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information disclosed.
FMWW encourages any and all community members and interested persons to attend
our monthly meetings to discuss these watershed issues.