SCCA is pleased to award Marylee Guinon the Leadership & Sustainability Award for her tireless work on fire safe roads.
The State Board of Forestry’s Fire Safe Regulations have long required safe concurrent firefighter access and civilian evacuation for all new development in the fire-prone Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). These Regulations require minimum 20-ft. road widths and dead-end road limits, including for existing roads, according to the State Attorney General. But at the local level, full compliance is lacking. In the November 2018 Camp Fire, Paradise suffered community burnover. Many residents had insufficient time to evacuate and were evacuating through the fire, often on roads too narrow to allow safe concurrent access for emergency wildfire equipment and civilian evacuation. Fatalities occurred.
CNPA Award Winner Sacramento Bee Nov 10, 2018
In 2019 and 2020, Sonoma County asked the BOF to certify that its fire ordinance complies with the State Fire Safe Regulations. County leadership dismissed objections of local citizens, organizations such as SCCA and – prominently – Marylee Guinon. Marylee and a core Sonoma County group, including Craig Harrison and Deborah Eppstein, worked tirelessly with the BOF to reveal the ordinance’s deficiencies. Victory was won in October 2020, when the BOF explicitly refused to certify Sonoma County’s fire ordinance, citing the Attorney General, Public Resources Code and the State Fire Safe Regulations.
Fully grasping that hope is not a strategy when it comes to wildfire, Marylee, recipient of SCCA’s Leadership and Sustainability Award, sprang into action. Working with several wildfire professionals, environmental groups, and other champions of wildfire safety across California, they have pivoted to the BOF’s current update of the Fire Safe Regulations. Unfortunately, 2021 drafts show evidence of anti-regulation political influence and impermissible false narratives.
Wildfire experts express an urgency to seriously address community evacuation and firefighter access, referred to as “fire safe roads” or “fire safe development.” Notwithstanding expert opinions, public officials at the local level have not, over decades of ill-advised land-use planning and permitting of development in the WUI, reckoned fully with the accumulated evacuation and safety risks associated with new development. Hence, we need the BOF to preserve the Fire Safe Regulations and resist delegating all discretion and authority to local jurisdictions to continue to sacrifice community safety to more WUI development.
Marylee Guinon, recipient of SCCA’s Leadership and Sustainability Award, conducting research of Giant Sequoia in Europe in the 1980’s