East Bay Wildfire Coalition

A collaborative effort by public agencies and residents throughout the East Bay to reduce the threat of wildfire

Photo credit: Julia Sumangil Photography

Who we are

In the spring of 2024, elected representatives from the Alameda and Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the city councils of Berkeley, El Cerrito, Oakland, Richmond, and the Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District gathered to form the East Bay Wildfire Coalition. The cities of Hayward, Pinole, and the Kensington Fire Protection District were slated to join May. They acted in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the agencies previously ratified .

Members of the Coalition include:

  • Susan Wengraf, Berkeley City Council, Chair
  • Janani Ramachandran, Oakland City Council, Vice Chair
  • Elisa Márquez, Alameda County Board of Supervisors
  • John Gioia, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors
  • Paul Fadelli, El Cerrito City Council
  • Ray Bonilla, Hayward City Council*
  • Daniel Levine, Kensington Fire Protection District*
  • Maureen Toms, Pinole Mayor*
  • Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond City Council
  •  Marie Bowman, Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District

*The Kensington Fire District and Cities of Hayward and Pinole will formally join pending approval at the July meeting.

Why did the group come together?

In the face of increasing threats from wildfire, it was 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.

An East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management Group could:

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

The participating jurisdictions will ultimately decide the group’s scope of work, strategic plan, and funding strategy.

How we got here

Work to develop what is now the East Bay Wildfire Coalition (EBWC) began in 2019 when a small group of East Bay community leaders concluded that wildfire prevention efforts could not be successful on a city-by-city or fire district basis alone. Wildfires go where there is fuel and the winds carry them. They don’t stop at municipal or county boundaries.

The leaders, principally from the Oakland Firesafe Council and the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, decided to work together, and solicited support from a wide number of area community organizations and public officials. A list of the ultimate endorsers is here [hyperlink]. They raised enough money to retain a consultant (PlaceWorks) and eventually a municipal law attorney (Shayna van Hoften of Hanson Bridgett) who drafted a Memorandum of Understanding MOU). The MOU outlines the structure of what is now the EBWC. You can read the MOU here [hyperlink].

In the fall of 2023 and the spring of 2024, ten jurisdictions ratified the MOU and on April 29th 2024, the EBWC convened for the first time. A second meeting is scheduled for July 8 at 9:00 AM at El Cerrito City Hall. You can attend the meeting in person or online. The agenda and attendance details are here [hyperlink].

Community support

Forming the East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management JPA is a grassroots effort of a coalition of community organizations working with elected officials and public agency staff members. Steering committee members are listed below.

List of Endorsers

East Bay Wildfire Prevention and Vegetation Management Coordination endorsements.

Last Updated: November 1, 2021

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. 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, California State Auto Association Insurance Division, and PG&E have all helped out in addition to the many individuals and neighborhood groups in the East Bay Hills. Finally in 2023 jurisdictions interested in signing the MOU, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, Berkeley, Oakland, Pinole, Richmond and the Moraga-Orinda Fire District made contributions enabling the MOU to be finalized. 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)

Background and References

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

Background and References

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