May 28, 2018 08:37 am
Sleepy Hollow, CA - A herd of 400 goats arrived at San Domenico School in Sleepy Hollow May 26, 2018 as part of a large-scale fire hazard reduction project spearheaded in late 2016 by Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District (SHFPD). This unique project is a collaborative effort resulting from the 2016 SHFPD Wildfire Hazard and Wildland Urban Interface Area Assessment, which identified key locations for fuel reduction to reduce the impact of wildfires in Sleepy Hollow and neighboring communities. By partnering with adjacent local landowners, including Rocking H Ranch, Triple-C Ranch, San Domenico School, and Marin County Open Space District (MCOSD), the multi-agency project aims to reduce hazardous fuels on nearly 140 acres of high-risk grass woodlands in and around Sleepy Hollow.
“Goat grazing can be a cost effective solution to reduce fuels and wildfire hazard in many parts of Marin,” says Rich Shortall, President of both SHFPD and FIRESafe MARIN. “This is the largest goat grazing project I’m aware of in Marin, and is pretty unique in the way it involves such a diverse group of public and private landowners.” Shortall also noted that the project will provide some level of protection to at least 7 Marin communities, including Sleepy Hollow, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Terra Linda, Marinwood, Lucas Valley, and Fairfax.
The goats, owned by Star Creek Land Stewards of Los Banos, CA, began grazing over the winter on Rocking H Ranch, helping to reduce and “de-thatch” decades of growth in 115 acres of native grasses while turning over soil with hundreds of tiny hooves. Shortall gives credit to Rocking H Ranch and ranch manager Arlo Seaver for helping get the project off the ground. “It was critical for us to find a suitable location to load and unload the goats, and provide winter grazing grounds. Rocking H has used the goats in the past, and their experience with the livestock contractor, and their generosity in loaning ranch facilities, was the real catalyst that moved the project from planning to reality,” Shortall said.
“Rocking H introduced goats as part of our integrated land management and fuel reduction program back in 2015, so when Rich reached out to us, we were happy to help,” Seaver said. “It’s an important cause and has been really rewarding to expand and partner with our neighbors. It reflects the commitment to agriculture, community and sustainability that Rocking H has and we look forward to more."
As spring approached, the herd of 400 goats moved to neighboring lands in the Terra Linda-Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space where they joined a second herd of 400 sheep and goats helping to reduce fuels and invasive weeds at the rate of 1 to 2 acres per day on public lands. Priority areas for grazing include fire roads and preserve edges where grazing helps enhance defensible space near homes.
Careful attention was paid to areas where invasive weeds are present to ensure the goats and sheep don’t spread seeds to new areas. The animals grazed impacted areas before the plants flowered and produced seeds. “In addition to fuel reduction goals, this grazing project helps prevent the spread of invasive barbed goatgrass, which can threaten rare serpentine plants and wildlife habitats,” says Sarah Minnick, Vegetation and Fire Ecologist for MCOSD.
Andrée Soares of Star Creek Land Stewards says great thought is given to the species and health of the animals. “We ‘prescribe’ the number of animals, density and duration as well as species and breed of animals to each specific site and project dependent on the goals to be achieved, as well as animal health and appropriate approach for each grazing site.”
As the goats enter San Domenico School, a new phase of the project begins, focused heavily on public safety and wildfire hazard reduction. “San Domenico School represented a unique opportunity for fuel reduction. The campus is located at the end of Butterfield Road in a location with a long history of wildfires, and the number of students and dormitories makes it challenging to evacuate during a fire,” says Todd Lando, Coordinator at FIRESafe MARIN and author of the 2016 Hazard Assessment. “Fuel reduction will occur on 30 acres of the 515-acre campus, using goats, followed by hand crews and tree work, to greatly reduce the impact of any wildfires in the area and improving the safety of students and faculty when they ‘shelter in place’ during a fire.”
“This great example of sustainable land management, community collaboration, and natural systems to our school and valley. It is a really fantastic gift to our community,” says Kimberly Pinkson, Director of Communications at San Domenico. “When the goats arrived, all afternoon students, parents, and neighbors have been walking along the fences enjoying our new guests.”
There are important community benefits, as well. A 1923 wildfire, recognized as the largest ever recorded in Marin at 50,000 acres, burned through Sleepy Hollow Ranch where the school is located today. (The ranch was saved, ironically, by high school students bussed in from Tamalpais and San Rafael High Schools to fight the fire, according to news reports from the time). “As we saw in 2017, fires tend to burn the same areas repeatedly,” Lando said. “Fire modeling sponsored by SHFPD as part of our hazard assessment showed a real risk of a fire burning through San Domenico from Lucas Valley - before reaching the rest of Sleepy Hollow. Reducing fuels at San Domenico and along the ridges may allow firefighters to stop a fire there before it reaches the other 850 homes in our valley.”
When they finish clearing more than 30 acres of grass and brush at San Domenico, the goats will move back to open space lands to create a 100 foot wide ‘reduced fuel zone’ along the ridge between Sleepy Hollow and Terra Linda. The grazed area will extend from San Domenico School to Fawn Drive and Fox Lane at the southeast end of Sleepy Hollow, allowing firefighters to work more safely and effectively along a critical ridge where wildfires can burn from one community to another. In June, the goats will move to nearby Triple-C Ranch, where they will make their way through 10 acres of grass and brush behind nearby homes.
Land managers and SHFPD aim to evaluate the effectiveness of the project when it’s complete, and begin planning for long-term maintenance of the grazed areas. “We understand that this is not a one-year project and we’re done,” says Shortall. “The Fire District is in it for the long-haul. We’ll continue to fund and facilitate this kind of work for years to come, and are already looking at new areas to reduce fuels next year.”
SHFPD, MCOSD and our partners encourage all Marin residents to take responsibility for wildfire safety around their homes by creating defensible space (it’s the law!) and preparing for wildfire before it’s too late. More information is available at firesafemarin.org.
Questions about the grazing can be directed to:
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May 27, 2018 09:08 am
Did you receive a NOTICE OF DEFENSIBLE SPACE INSPECTION? If you received a notice, you may have questions about the meaning of the different requirements and specific hazards noted. Use the list below and click on an item to learn more about specific violations and requirements.
Juniper and Bamboo
Inspectors check boxes to indicate violations observed during inspections. Please select any boxes that were checked on the Hazard Notice left at your home to learn more about how to correct the violation.
- Remove all branches within 10’ of any chimney or stovepipe outlet.
- Remove all leaves, needles and dead vegetation on roofs, gutters, decks, porches, stairways, etc.
- Remove all dead and dying trees, branches, shrubs, and plants adjacent to buildings or overhanging roofs.
- Remove all dead grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches, leaves, weeds and needles within 30’ of structures.
- Remove or separate live combustible ground cover and shrubs within 30’ of structures.
- Remove combustible vegetation and materials, on, adjacent to, or below combustible decks, balconies, stairs.
- Relocate exposed firewood or lumber outside of zone 1 unless covered in a fire resistive material.
- Cut annual grasses and forbs (weeds) to a maximum of 4” in height.
- Provide separation between shrubs and trees, with increased separation on slopes.
- Cut and remove all pyrophytic combustible vegetation within 30’ of structures.
- Remove all piles of accumulated dead vegetation on the property.
- Remove tree limbs and growth less than 3” diameter to 10’ above ground (or 1/3 the tree's height).
- Vegetation clearance adjacent to roads and/or driveways must be maintained 10’ horizontally and 14’ vertically.
- Address numbers must be 4” minimum, displayed in contrasting colors, and readable from the street.
- Equip all chimney or stovepipe openings with a metal screen having openings between 3/8” and 1/2”.
- Logs or stumps embedded in soil must be removed or isolated from vegetation within 100' of structures.
- Outbuildings & Propane (LPG) tanks must have 10’ of clearance to bare mineral soil.
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May 27, 2018 08:49 am
All Sleepy Hollow residents are required by law to maintain Defensible Space at all times to reduce the risk of wildfire. To help you dispose of hazardous vegetation, SHFPD holds multiple chipper days each year. This year, in June and July, we're coming door-to-door to pick up LARGE PILES at your home (for small quantities, please continue to use your green cans).
June 9-10, 2018
Location: At the curbside in front of your home.
Next Chipper Days - Mark Your Calendar!
July 14-15, 2018
Location: At the curbside in front of your home.
Online registration required! (Registration begins July 1)
October 6, 2018 (to coincide with the creek clean up)
Location: End of Butterfield Rd.
No registration required
1. CREATE DEFENSIBLE SPACE
Please review the booklet, “Living With Fire in Sleepy Hollow.” All Sleepy Hollow residents received a printed copy by mail in May, and a PDF version is available for download here. It contains valuable information regarding wildfire risk, defensible space, and firescaping. Additional information on creating Defensible Space is available at www.firesafemarin.org. The law requires that all property owners remove the flammable vegetation on your property to create a defensible space of at least 100 feet (PRC 4291).
2. STACK MATERIAL at Curbside
- CHIPPER CREWS WILL DISPOSE OF UP TO 5 CUBIC YARDS OF CUT VEGETATION AT NO COST (APPROXIMATELY 4'X4'X8', STACKED). Larger quantities are OK, but must be noted in your registration form.
- Limbs and branches, 1" to 6" diameter, brush, woody material, broom are OK! NO Grass, loose leaves, or soft plants (dispose of these in green cans, please). The chipper can only dispose of limbs, branches, and woody material.
- Bamboo and Juniper are OK in 2018 - please note in registration form.
- No material should be greater than 6” in diameter.
- Stack material with the CUT ENDS FACING THE STREET!
- All vegetative material should be free of rocks, dirt and other foreign material that could damage the equipment. No lumber, fencing, or other materials may be chipped.
- Material must be fire hazardous vegetation and must originate in Sleepy Hollow.
- No lumber, metal, plastic, or other materials.
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