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Posted on: April 22, 2019


Defensible Space 2


This program is one of many ongoing efforts to build community disaster preparedness and resilience by increasing fire danger awareness, by reducing fuel loads, and by identifying and designating feasible evacuation routes thereby making our community safer.

The Town of Corte Madera is sponsoring green waste chipper days in particularly high-risk fire neighborhoods Town-wide on a descending priority basis. Under this program, residents are responsible only for the labor and costs associated with brush removal, cutting, stacking, and staging them in locations deemed suitable by the Town.  The goal is to create a 100-foot Defensible Space around each property or to the extent feasible and as required by law. The Town will in turn utilize contract labor to chip the materials on designated and pre-approved chipper days and dispose of them accordingly.

The program is voluntary. However, the law requiring homeowners to maintain “Defensible Space” around their homes still applies. More information about the program can be found on the Town’s web-site under emergency preparedness. (

In addition, the Town will focus on clearing steps, lanes and paths and Town-owned properties. In some areas, the Town and its contractors may assist homeowners in removal of vegetation adjacent to roads and driveways in especially critical fire areas such as Christmas Tree Hill. A minimum of 12 feet of unobstructed pavement with 14’ overhead is required for passage of vehicles and fire engines. Lessons learned from the North Bay and Paradise fires reveal we need to do a much better job of improving access and evacuation routes.

The program is funded through Measure F (Sales Tax Override 2018).


Last fall the concept was piloted in the Meadowcrest Ridge neighborhood. This ridgeline is a strategic defense perimeter to protect against fires coming largely from the south and west. Neighbors have diligently removed over 150 tons of fuel. This fuel has been chipped or otherwise removed greatly reducing the underbrush, dead and dying trees, and improved emergency ingress and egress. All western ridgelines are at considerable risk and it is our intent to repeat the Meadowcrest effort Town-wide. It is in our collective interests to do so. We need your help to make it happen.

Thus far, four additional neighborhoods have signed on to the Neighborhood Chipper Program. These neighborhoods have been briefed and detailed materials on how the program works have been sent to residents in these areas:

  • Hidden Valley-April 29-30
  • Upper Chapman Park-May 1-2 
  • Lower Chapman Park-May 13-14 
  • Christmas Tree Hill-May 20-22


Some parking areas or partial streets will be closed in order to stage materials to be chipped and/or otherwise disposed of.   Those areas will be clearly marked in advance of the scheduled chipping days for each neighborhood. There will be Grange boxes (dumpsters) in some cases. Note the dumpsters are intended for broom and other non-native species only. No other materials (e.g. vines of any type-ivy, poison oak, other refuse, etc.) will be accepted. Reminders will be made through social media a day or two before a neighborhood chipping event. Signs and markers will remain posted until the chipper effort has been completed.

There may be some traffic delays to allow for equipment and contract operators to process the materials. We will do our best to minimize inconveniences, but some are inevitable given our narrow streets and lack of sidewalks in most of these neighborhoods. Please be patient and allow extra time. Public Works will assist in signage on affected roadways.

There will be noise, but it is unavoidable. If residents and visitors cooperate, we can be efficient and complete the tasks quickly. Work will occur only on weekdays and during normal work hours. No work will be done on weekends.

This is a very aggressive fuel-mitigation effort and it requires that all parties cooperate. We thank you in advance for your cooperation in this regard.


Other hillside neighborhoods interested in participating in their own chipper program can contact Marla Orth, This program will continue throughout the year. There are available dates starting June 1. It is recommended that a one-month lead time be planned to allow for maximum neighborhood participation. NRGs, HOAs and others not in a formal group are encouraged and eligible to participate. Once the critical hillsides and ridgelines have been addressed, other neighborhoods will be allowed to participate. As much work that can feasibly be accomplished before the height of the 2019 Fire Season is the mandate and the goal.

For specific code requirements and/or recommendations on how to comply with the Defensible Space law please contact Fire Marshal Ruben Martin of the Central Marin Fire Department at

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