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Safeguarding Richmond: A Comprehensive Approach to Wildfire Prevention

CM Robinson and Staff

Jun 19, 2023

As Richmond grapples with the pressing need for a wildfire prevention plan, City Council fully understands the urgency and significance of taking action to protect both the community's lives, homes and residents' health. 

Given the ongoing and deepening climate crisis, we must be both proactive AND thoughtful in our response to the escalating threat of wildfires. 

Wildfires are not only a threat to the lives and homes of Richmond residents living in high fire danger zones, they also threaten the health of all Richmond residents, especially those who suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma. 

Richmond already has some of the highest rates of asthma in the state. We are in the 97th percentile of the number of cases of people who are sent to the hospital due to asthma attacks. The ability to breathe freely is fundamental to human well-being, and safeguarding the community's health becomes another important reason to pursue effective wildfire prevention measures.

As a City of Richmond Councilmember, Doria Robinson, supports having a clear short term plan to address the upcoming fire season, as well as a long term plan that will ensure Richmond is prepared for anticipated longer, more intense wildfire seasons.  

Key short term strategies, such as fuel reduction, supporting and encouraging residents in high fire areas to create and maintain defensible space around homes, and ensuring accessibility of fire roads, are a few immediate preventative measures suggested by firefighters and wildfire prevention advocates. 

Formulating a concise short term plan focusing on the map of high wildfire-risk areas in Richmond will minimize the probability and impact of wildfires in the near term. 

Acknowledging that climate change will increase the threat of wildfires, creating a thoughtful comprehensive wildfire prevention program is needed to safeguard the community's future. A multifaceted set of strategies, supported by dedicated funds and staff resources, is essential for effective long term prevention. Collaborative efforts between the fire department, public works, and city and county leaders will be pivotal in formulating a robust plan that addresses the ongoing challenges of wildfire prevention.

And with so many needs in our city understanding the costs associated with wildfire prevention is essential for responsible budgeting. We must also create an informed budget that draws on the expertise of the city manager, finance department, Richmond Fire Department and Public Works Department to estimate the cost of both the short term and long term plans by strategy, and takes into consideration available staffing and other feasibility considerations.

We also need to understand which sources of funding we can draw on to meet immediate short term needs and which funds are best for creating an ongoing long term wildfire prevention program. These funding sources could possibly include the risk reserve fund, county, state and federal grants such as Measure X funding. By developing a well-structured plan, Richmond can apply for Measure X funds in the upcoming cycle, ensuring a sustainable and annual funding source for long-term prevention efforts.

In conclusion, Councilmember Robinson will support an informed and proactive approach to wildfire prevention in Richmond. This approach should include well thought through short term and long term plans, vetted by strong expert leadership, as well as formal budgets and identified funding sources to fund those plans. This is how the city can stay ahead of the wildfire season, effectively protect the residents of Richmond, as well as their property and make sure we do it while being fiscally responsible. 

With the ongoing threat of wildfires as a result of climate change, it is imperative that Richmond takes thoughtful, decisive action and builds a resilient future through robust, well informed and fiscally responsible wildfire prevention measures. 

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