Photo credit: Julia Sumangil Photography
In the face of increasing threats from wildfire, it is time for a new, more effective, regional approach to keep residents in the East Bay Hills and surrounding communities safe.
The East Bay Hills is a high wildfire risk zone. Wildfires do not respect political boundaries so fire prevention and vegetation management should be regional efforts. But coordinating among the many jurisdictions, fire districts, and other regional agencies in the East Bay wildfire zone is an impossible challenge without a specialized mechanism.
This is why we are proposing an East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management Joint Powers Agency (JPA).
Wildfires have increased in frequency and extent throughout California in recent years. A changing climate at the global scale has established the climatic preconditions for major wildfire events and an extended fire season. These preconditions include longer periods of drought, more erratic precipitation patterns, more instances of extreme heat, and more frequent high wind events.
Though primary causes are at the global level, local best practices in fire prevention and vegetation management are advancing quickly. They need to be scaled up.
Today in the East Bay, local governments are responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires in the fire risk areas of their cities and towns, counties and independent fire districts manage unincorporated areas, and agencies such as EBMUD, EBRPD, PG&E, and UC Berkeley manage their significant wildland holdings in the East Bay hills. Any gap in efforts could threaten the entire region.
We believe that cooperation is required to make our communities safer.
A regional agency with a sole focus on wildfire prevention in the East Bay Hills is the ideal mechanism to raise resources, align strategies, and implement new programs targeted at the areas at greatest risk.
The participating jurisdictions will ultimately decide the JPA’s structure, scope of work, and funding strategy.
The JPA is proposed to include jurisdictions in western portions of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties containing hill areas designated as High or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.
Expand the headings below to see maps of fire hazard severity zones in each county, as well as lists of potential member jurisdictions and partners.
Click image to go to view full-size PDF.
Due to the multiple jurisdictions involved, CAL FIRE does not produce a single map showing fire severity zones in all parts of the proposed JPA area. This is just one of the reasons an East Bay Wildfire JPA is needed.
CAL FIRE last updated its Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps through a process that lasted from 2007 to 2010. That work resulted in three datasets:
The map above is for illustrative purposes and represents a composite of these three datasets, for both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Adopted and Recommended designations are shown in solid colors, while the Draft designations are shown in hatched colors.
CAL FIRE is currently updating its data again. If new maps showing revised Fire Hazard Severity Zones become available, they will be posted here.
For more information about the CAL FIRE designations and the data shown here, visit: https://osfm.fire.ca.gov/divisions/wildfire-planning-engineering/wildland-hazards-building-codes/fire-hazard-severity-zones-maps/
Although wildfire hazards exist in much of the undeveloped and Wildland Urban Interface areas of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, our efforts to create a JPA are currently focused on the “inner East Bay,” along the Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, and West Contra Costa Hills, and extending southward to the westernmost portions of the Diablo Range. Relevant jurisdictions and agencies extend from Hercules in the north to Fremont in the south, and include:
Forming the East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management JPA is a grassroots effort of a coalition of community organizations working with county staff and elected officials. Steering committee members are listed below.
East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management Joint Protection Agency endorsements.
Last Updated: November 1, 2021
The JPA Community Organizing Committee has coordinated an outreach effort to secure endorsements for the JPA concept throughout the region. The group has made preliminary presentations to elected bodies and commissions to obtain support for a joint resolution that will allow local jurisdictions to explore formation of the JPA.
More than 20 jurisdictions and agencies have now agreed to participate in workshops for jurisdiction and agency representatives to consider a governing structure, goals, funding strategies, and implementation approach for the JPA. These JPA formation discussions will begin in December 2021 and continue into 2022.