Stinson Beach hires fire officer to enforce defensible space rules

02/07/2019

To get their beachside town ready for wildfire season, the board of the Stinson Beach Fire Protection District voted this week to hire a part-time seasonal fire officer to help residents comply with fire codes. The new officer, Anthony Beltramo, has worked with departments in Kentfield and Mill Valley in similar capacities, and has been a duty officer in Stinson Beach for the past four years. “The concept would be he comes here for a couple days a week and does inspections of property for preparedness,” said Jim Ritchie, president of the board of directors. It helps that although Mr. Beltramo is familiar with Stinson, he is not a local. Fire Chief Kenny Stevens, Mr. Ritchie said, “knows everybody in town, and everybody thinks they have reasons why their property should be treated differently from everyone else. We thought it might be better to have a more neutral guy.” Mr. Beltramo will largely be tasked with ensuring compliance with Public Resource Code 4291, which requires anyone who owns, leases or maintains any building or structure in California to comply with rules about defensible space. The first 30 feet around a structure must be clear of dead vegetation; roofs and gutters must be clean; dead tree limbs, weeds, bushes and grass must be cut down or well-maintained up to the property line or 100 feet out, whichever is closer. The goal, said Christie Neill, a battalion chief with the Marin County Fire Department, is to “ensure that everything’s cleaned up, trimmed up and pretty defensible from a fire standpoint.” Ms. Neill said Marin County Fire conducts defensible space inspections across Marin County, but that limited resources allow for only 3,000 to 4,000 inspections of West Marin’s roughly 16,000 parcels each year, so parcels are inspected on a rotation schedule. By hiring its own dedicated officer to conduct inspections, Stinson is taking the matter into its own hands. And though the Stinson Beach fire department, a volunteer force, has rarely cited residents in the past, Mr. Ritchie said they might start clamping down on violations moving forward. Most of the hazards stem from foliage that grows around homes, cluttering streets and hanging over roofs. “It’s a small town, cooperative. Everybody gets it…but not always,” he said. Mr. Ritchie is hoping that the funding for Mr. Beltramo’s position will come out of Measure W, the successful November initiative that raised the transient occupancy tax on short-term rentals in West Marin by 4 percentage points. Money collected from the measure will be divided between affordable housing efforts and fire services.