East Bay Hills Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management Coordination

A grassroots advocacy effort to promote coordination to reduce wildfire threat throughout the East Bay Hills

Photo credit: Julia Sumangil Photography

Why do we need inter-jurisdictional coordination for Regional Wildfire Prevention in the East Bay Hills?

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 clear framework for coordination, formalized by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
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 Memorandum of Understanding with a sole focus on wildfire prevention in the East Bay Hills is an ideal mechanism to gather resources, align strategies, and implement new programs targeted at the areas at greatest risk.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a written agreement among governmental agencies that expresses their aligned will. An MOU also details the intent to take action together. An MOU can be bilateral (between two parties) or multilateral (between more than two parties). In this case, the MOU could be signed by both counties (Alameda and Contra Costa), all cities and towns, and all fire districts with jurisdiction in the East Bay Hills.

An MOU provides the legal basis for the jurisdictions to work together to accomplish agreed upon goals, in this case efforts to limit or prevent damage from future wildfires. Counties and Cities are authorized to make such contracts under Government Code section 23004(c), Government Code section 40602(b), or through municipal charters or codes.

An East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management MOU could result in:

  1. Developing a plan to reduce the most flammable wildlands vegetation in the East Bay Hills and replace it with wildfire resistant vegetation where appropriate.
  2. Raising funds from state and federal grants to implement shared objectives.
  3. Creating Vegetation Management, “Defensible Space” and “Home Hardening” programs to aid and advise property owners on best practices to reduce threat of wildfire.
  4. Protecting sensitive wildlife habitats and native plant landscapes.

The participating jurisdictions will ultimately decide the MOU’s structure, scope of work, and funding strategy.

* The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) identifies areas of significant fire hazards based on fuels, terrain, weather, and other relevant factors. The maps were last updated in 2007-2010 and are currently being updated.

Areas to be Included in the MOU

The MOU 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:

  • ADOPTED fire hazard risk designations were mapped for State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) in 2007.
  • RECOMMENDED very high fire hazard risk designations for Local Responsibility Areas (LRAs) were published in 2008-2009.
  • DRAFT fire hazard risk designations for high and moderate risk areas within LRAs were published in 2007, but were never finalized by CAL FIRE.

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/

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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:

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Who We Are

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.

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List of Endorsers

East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management Coordination endorsements.

Last Updated: November 1, 2021

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Our Progress Toward Developing an MOU

The Community Organizing Committee began its work to facilitate the coordination of wildfire prevention efforts in the East Bay Hills in 2019. Initially, the group secured endorsements for a potential Joint Powers Agency (JPA) and 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. From December 2021 through June 2022, more than 20 jurisdictions and agencies participated in several workshops for jurisdiction and agency representatives to consider a governing structure, goals, funding strategies, and implementation approach.

These workshops resulted in the nomination of a smaller working group composed of both fire professionals and elected officials from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, and the Cities of Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, and Pinole, and the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District. In the summer of 2022, the working group made the recommendation to pursue the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in lieu of forming a new JPA. The Hanson Bridgett law firm was contracted in Fall 2022 to draft the MOU. The document was reviewed and revised by the Working Group and their legal counsel. In June 2023, the Working Group agreed on the final language of the proposed MOU.

The Proposed MOU is now public and will be presented to representatives from all interested jurisdictions and agencies in the East Bay Hills in Summer 2023, and then to governing boards for execution.

Thanks to our Supporters

The Community Organizing Committee has been working as volunteers since 2019 to establish a working agreement among the local governments in the East Bay Hills. While a MOU to make this effort a reality is now taking shape, we want to thank the entities who have contributed financially to this effort. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Donner Family Fund, the State Coastal Conservancy grant with the Bay Area Council Economic Forum, CSAA Insurance Group, and PG&E have all helped out in addition to the many individuals and neighborhood groups in the East Bay hills. Their contributions are most appreciated. They have enabled us to retain PlaceWorks and Shayna van Hoften at Hanson Bridgett as our community and legal consultants.

Updates and Events

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Past events and presentations will be posted here.

Currently Participating Jurisdictions (later)

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Background and References

View links to references, organizations, and articles by expanding the list below.

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Background and References
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