The County of Santa Clara

Approved as Amended
Apr 9, 2019 9:30 AM

Under advisement from December 4, 2018 (Item No. 20): Receive report from the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District relating to the preparedness and County Fire needs given the ever-increasing threats of large-scale fire incidents in the County and throughout California.


Department:Central Fire Protection DistrictSponsors:
Category:ReportFunctions:Central Fire Protection District



Approval of the recommended action to receive the report will have no fiscal implications.


The increasing threat of wildland fire driven by a changing climate requires immediate action to manage hazardous fuel conditions, ensure efficient notification of the community during an emergency, and provide sufficient response resources to keep wildland urban interface (WUI) fires small.

The report is consistent with Priority 1 of the County’s recently adopted Fire Protection Legislative Policies (Attachment A, page 67).


The recommended action will have no/neutral impact on children and youth.


The recommended action will have no/neutral impact on seniors.


The recommended action will have no/neutral sustainability implications.


At the December 4, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting, a board referral was given to the County Fire Chief due to the implications of the huge increase in wildland fires in the region and the potential risks to Santa Clara County. Specifically, the referral requested information on tools, technology, strategies, policies, procedures and resources available in the County as well as what additional resources are needed to protect our community. The Santa Clara County Fire Department (Central Fire Protection District) Fire Chief was asked to coordinate with the other fire districts (Los Altos Hills and South Santa Clara County), the Roads and Airports department, and County Parks and report back to the Board no later than April, 2019.

The Board’s request came shortly after the Camp fire destroyed the communities of Concow, Magalia, and Paradise in Butte County, ending the deadliest and most destructive year of wildland fires in California history. More than 20,000 structures were destroyed, over 1.9 million acres burned, and 98 people were killed. The Camp fire alone is estimated to have cost over $120 million to contain[1] and burned more than 18,000 structures, becoming California’s most destructive wildland fire ever. This is remarkable considering just 13-months prior the Tubbs fire in Sonoma County had been the most destructive fire in California history burning 5,636 structures and killing 22 people. These fires fueled by dense, dry vegetation and warmer, drier weather have unfortunately become increasingly more common over the last several years and have resulted in rising suppression costs

[1] Camp Fire, Incident Status Summary (ICS-209), November 25, 2018

Meeting History

Apr 9, 2019 9:30 AM Video Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting

One individual addressed the Board.

At the request of Vice President Chavez, the Board directed Administration to report to the Board during the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget process relating to a budget plan for recommendations regarding wildfire preparedness and planning, including timelines and sources of funds such as the Fire District Enterprise Fund, State contributions, or the County General Fund.

At the request of Vice President Chavez, the Board further directed Administration of the Central Fire Protection District and the Planning Department to report to the Board on date uncertain relating to recommendations regarding long-term development and potential initiatives related to development and building codes; and, directed Administration to provide a timeline for Board consideration.

MOVER:Cindy Chavez, Vice President
SECONDER:Susan Ellenberg, Supervisor
AYES:Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian


Apr 9, 2019 9:30 AMBoard of SupervisorsRegular Meeting


10:35 AMThat cakes care of the consent calendar. That take us to the next item which is item number 7 to be heard no earlier than 10:00 a. M. That time has come an gone. Before we get to that item, those of you who arrived in the last half hour or 45 minutes, we do have items 8 and 9 now e or less b bundled up no lesn 11:00. If we run beyond 11:00, we'll move straight from 7 to 8 and. Item number 7, I want to supervisor chavez in a moment. Dr. Smith let me ask, i'm goi to be the person who comes down and presents on this?
10:36 AMYes.
He's wait to do that. please ask your team to come down to present. We'll ask supervisor chavez. I think this is in response to referral she did a while back. I thought it might help.
Thank you very much. i'm very much looking forwardo this presentation. For those of you following at home, you'll see that the am of fed -- material prap -- pred for this discussion is high. What I wanted to make sure that we had a chance to just kind f center ourselves, as we know, there's been a new state of normal in the state of california relative to wildfire activity in our state. What I had requested was that w have an opportunity to dive in what the implications were for santa clara county and staff and resources they need. As luck would have it, they were already thinking about the same thing. This is an opportunity for them to walk us through their vision for the future. One request at the end of the presentation as you walk us through next steps in terms o action of the board has an opportunity to take. With that, I would turn it over to you. Chief bowden.
10:38 AMThank you. good morning supervisors, good morning Dr. Smith. i'm tony bowden, fire chef santa clara county fire department. With me today is assistant chief john justice to my left and to my right is fire can't bill murphy. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak on t issue which really has created a tremendous amount of concern from the communities that we serve. Before I begin, I would like to recognize all of our partners who on the daily basis, play vital role in preparing our community for wildfires. Calfire, santa clara county fire safe counsel, theirs public safety task forces within our communities, santa clara county fire chiefs and all of our o space partners have shown a tremendous commitment to adapting this changing threat. Santa clara county with over half million acres unincorporate the wild lands is not unlike other county in the state of call. We are susceptible to wildfire. Over the last several fire seasons, throughout california, here locally during the loma fire, we have seen unprecedented fire behavior in devastation fueled by dense, dry vegetation and hotter drier weather. This is prompted a nearly year-round response and real evaluation to our approach. To date the majority of this evaluation occurred at the state level. Following the board referral approved on December 4, 2018, county fire at your direction, conducted an evaluation of our local wildfire preparedness and planning efforts. As I hope you'll see in the report, the local fire departments, county fire districts and other stakeholders have committed to planning and training for the inevitable. When it of cos to -- comes to wildfire it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. In 2016, county fire, calfire and santa clara county fire safe worked with many local stakeholders to develop the county first countywide community wildfire protection plan. Otherwise known as the cwpp. This is considered a unifying planning document wildfire preparedness within the county of santa clara.
10:40 AMExcuse me. please pull the microphone closer. I'm getting some cupped ears.
10:41 AMOver the last several fire seasons the fire behavior and level of destruction that has occurred has made it clear something has changed. You'll hear the team the new -- term the new normal. That's what we hear. This term is used to describe thefire environment that we are currently experiencing today. This new normal is being driv by dry and dense vegetation, hotter and drier weather and locally approved development that has built communities within the wild land urban interface area. This forced renewed focus on prevention and on cwpp that wildfires do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. To begin addressing this threat more aggressively, I believe santa clara county to focus on operationallizing the cwpp. Dz
10:42 AMExcuse me. I wonder if they can ask fos outside to bring the volume down. Maybe move down the hall. I apologize. Physical you'll pause for just a minute.
To begin addressing this threat more aggressively, I believe santa clara county should focus on operationallizing the cwpp. The cwpp has created a countywide planning framework currently there's no coordinated entity with the necessary funding to ensure the ongoing revision or implementation of this plan. Wild land fire program within the county fire marshal's office, with unify this planning effort countywide. Ensuring collaboration between all incorporated and unincorporated communities irrespective whether they're in an established fire districttor not. This structure is similar to the county office of emergency management relationship with the cities in the operational area. I've included a two-year work plan with the wildland fire program as attachment b to the report. This work plan establi establishes short-term and longer term threats that would require funding of 3. 5 ftes. These positions have been identified as necessary foundation to complete long-term and short-term initiatives. Specific activities that will be coordinated by the program include develop a best practice report back to the board within six months, enhance alert warning capabilities, operationallize the cwpp, unify wildfire planning and coordinate nation of the county and operational area level. Establish a santa clara reduction working group to accelerate a pace of management within the county and provide greater defensible space education, inspection and enforcement capability throughout the county. All that said, in give the urgency of this issue, county fire has begun to address the threat. Specifically, county council working with county communications to finalize an m. O. U. To install 10 wildfire detection cameras on kilt owned facilities. This will enhance awareness capabilities at the 911 center as well as the operational area, mutual aid coordination center. Additionally, county fire has enhanced our fleet fire engines and utility vehicles to ensure we can continue to support our local partners and the state fire rescue mutual aid system. In closing, we know santa clara county is at risk for wildland fires. As a result of climate change, this threat is forecasted to increase. Our region is forecasted to develop southern california weather. Our open space are filled wi more than california fuels. Santa clara county's fire districts and partnering agencies are working together to plan and prepare but given the recent fire behavior, climate change impacts, those efforts May not be efficient to addrs our changing need. As evidenced by the last few fire seasons, it is clear we seeing unprecedented fire behavior an and destruction and take immediate action. With that i'll take any questions.
10:46 AMThank you chief. supervisor chavez to be followed by supervisor ellenberg.
10:47 AMCould you take a moment to e able address distinct questions. One is can you talk about the implications of mutual aid given the new environment. You highlight that in the report but again it's 1200 pages. Then the second is could you - I heard your point about wog with county counsel on the camera. I think that's really critical. I like you to address the p you're looking for. Forward to relative to the equipment purchase and that's really relative to this mutual aid issue and staffing relative to the mutual aid issue.
I'll address mutual aid. when you're mutual aid it's primarily on the response side of the house. We move more resource in the state of california up and down the state than all the other states combined. We have a very robust mutual aid system. Here in santa clara county, we have a very robust mutual aid system as well locally. Which is part of the mass ml aid system. What we have seen over the last several years, is a reduction in mutual aid resources available for large events. I'll give an example. We had the camp fire break in northern california and within a day, we have the woolsley fire. It puts state in situation normal amount of resources that's available for mutual aid, would not have been available. Where this really concerns us, we were talking about the specialized resources that are critically to wildland fire. You're talking about fuel crews, hand crews, aircraft, dozers. Those are scarce resources. Those are the first often to be deployed to these fires. If an event occurred santa clara county, our access to those resources would have been severely lilted. That's little bit about mutual aid. It's primarily about response and response side of the house. Could you repeat the second question?
10:49 AMJust for the listening public who didn't read your 1200-page report, could you let us know how many acres of fuel thate have in our county?
First I think I needly to apologize to the clerk of the board. The fire services very much da driven and hopefully the report was helpful and factual for y. In santa clara county there's over half million acres. 554,000 acres unincorporated area. About 200,000 are so of those acres sit within one of the three dependent fire districts that returned the board as our board of directors. There are areas that we call under specific -- underserved and unprotected.
10:50 AMThat doesn't really describe the challenges we have along those borders. On the other side of the bos we have counties and cities that are underresourced.
That's correct. large disasters do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. It is common to see one fire n one jurisdiction and other jurisdictions over. From a planning perspective, it's the moved planning side o the house and we're talking about fuel mitigation and production. It needs to be a coordinated unified effort. If you're neighbor is not doing it, it can easily affect you.
10:51 AMI have a few more of it you-a chance to have conversations with you. I like to let my colleagues weigh in. I like to ask if before we any action come back to me for the next step. Thank you.
Thank you supervisor chavez. before I go to supervisor ellenberg, we have one card from member of the public like to speak. I want to accommodate just questions and then i'll take public speakers and bring it back for discussion and possible action by the board today. Supervisor ellenberg?
With that caveat supervisor, it's not lost on me. I do want to make a brief comment and first chief bowden never apologize for being data driven. I want to thank you for this really history-rich and well-written report. We see lots of ledge files. This was one of the most detail and thoughtful. I want to cute please for the comprehensive and compelling report.
10:52 AMAll good on questions? thank you. Let me go to roda fry. I don't see any other questio from board members.
We need to make sure --
10:53 AMHang on. I will put you back at the regular microphone. We'll restart your time.
Thank you. we need to make sure that fires don't spread that fires don't kill people and that toxic fumes from fires don't kill people. Thank you for upgrading the fe safety for wildland urban space also -- in my opinion the 2016 wildland fire protection plan should accelerate its timeline for implementation. I read it when it came out. I was shocked. Additionally I find it shocking that major home renovations are not requiring fire sprinklers. Fire sprinklers might represent one or two percent of home renovation cost. Which create at fire chimney effect. We do home energy efficiency. Unvented roof must be required for major home renovations. I have fire concerns about urban areas. Nearly 3000 people during the 9/11 attack in new york city, so far over 10,000 people have gotten cancer from its toxic dust. As a minimum, every medium and high-rise building should be insulated with materials that do not emit significant toxic or smoke exposed to fire. There's been a number of major fires in the bay area building that were under construction. For instance, santana roe 2002, oakland July 2017, worldwide casualties could have been reduced had there been better construction. For instance, san francisco October 2018, fast spreading fire in the gateway apartment with only two elevators and two small staircases. London, 2017, fire started with hot point freezer kill. 72 people which is about 130 units, flammable with rapid fire. Shanghai same thing. We have this paper on your des
10:55 AMI need to call it.
Please read my paper. you already have it.
Thank you very much. chief, anything else before we go back to the board?
Board members? supervisor chavez.
Thank you. I wanted to take an action Dr. Smith, I would like your opinion as to this process as well. First I want top recommend or request it's part of the b process that there will be a clear budget plan for the recommendations that you have here along with the timeline ad source of funds. That will be my first part of a motion. The second is, i'm interested n having the fire department, the work more closely with our planning department to take a look at what source of recommendations should be made longer term relevant to development. I know that our building codes come in statewide level that whatever new initiatives we think are considering, discussions come back to us. What I like to do ask Dr. S on that second item. There's a lot of work that teams are undergoing as part o budget. If we could get from you a timeline of when that second discussion could come back to the board.
10:57 AMWill do.
Thank you. that would be a motion along with a thank you for the report.
We have a motion by supervisor chavez and second by supervisor ellenberg. Just to clarify, supervisor chavez, there was direction in your motion to come back with budget that addressed this issue. Is it your intention to provi direction today? I don't have a point of view yet, I want to make sure, to some money in the budget for this? Is it to ask the staff to fige out what they think we can d
There are two different issues that are unique relative to the fire department. One of them is the end fund tt allows them to spend money fr that enterprise fund. Secondly, the state of california has set aside about $800 million for grants and opportunities for those grants. What I really wanted was to he the staff come back and say this is from our enterprise fund, this is what can come from state contributions and then whether or not it need to come out the general fund. I thought it would be best to have the wholistic discussion under the budget as a whole.
10:58 AMAll clear for staff as well?
We'll ask are there any other comments? Please vote on your screen. Please display the results and the motion carries 5-0. Ms. Frye, I do have copies of the document that you referenced. We have two different documents on two different items. Thank you. That motion carries 5-0. Thank you very much chief to you and your team and that takes u then to items 8 and 9. Which we are scheduled to hear no earlier than 11:00. Colleagues, I will suggest we take aff a 5 minute recess to w the chamber to clear. It will be a 5 minute recess. The clark has handed me 60 cards from speakers who would like to speak on this item. We have to sort out how mu time. Without objection, we stand in recess in 5 minutes.