San Pedro Mountain is a prominent woodland area in San Rafael, California. Running roughly east to west from the San Francisco Bay to Highway 101, the mountain is managed by various jurisdictions, including Marin County Parks, the City of San Rafael, and China Camp State Park.

On both the north and south sides of the mountain are a variety of suburban neighborhoods with single-family and multi-family homes. Additionally, these areas include prominent public and private institutions, including the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, Glenwood Elementary School, Venetia Valley School, San Rafael High School, and Dominican University of California. Significant portions of these neighborhoods are designated as Wilderness Urban Interface Zones (WUI). This designation serves a variety of purposes, including highlighting significant risk of wildfire threat to structures.

Scotch and French Broom are invasive plant species that have flourished on the mountain for years. Largely unchecked, these plants have crowded out native species on large sections of the mountain, growing to over 6’ tall in some sections. During late summer and fall months, these plants dry out, becoming highly flammable. Additionally, because of their height and density, during wildfires these plants carry fire from the woodland floor up into the crown of the trees, leading to catastrophic fires. With persistent drought conditions in recent years and the potential for a long term trend toward dryer, hotter seasons, the broom adds significant risk of fires on the mountain becoming catastrophic, akin to those seen in recent years in Napa and Sonoma counties.

Map of San Pedro Mountain and surrounding neighborhoods, courtesy of Google Maps.

The Project

San Pedro Ridge Fire Safety started in September 2021 with the mission to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire on San Pedro Mountain and the adjacent neighborhoods. It will accomplish this by:

  • Mobilizing and coordinating volunteers from the community to pull and remove French and Scotch Broom from publicly and privately held woodland areas adjacent to the neighborhoods.

  • Project leaders will communicate with private landowners to gain written consent, define the scope of the work on their property, and ensure liability waivers are signed.

  • Project leaders will also request donations from residents and local institutions to fund the purchase of tools and the removal of the broom by professional chipper crews.

In its initial years, the primary function will be to focus on the highest risk areas to remove as much of the broom as possible to reduce the immediate fire risk to the neighborhoods. Each spring, efforts will also be made to return to previously cleared areas to remove new broom sprouts to prevent regrowth and a return of the problem. Over time, the aim is to create significant buffer areas around each neighborhood where there is no broom, making it easier for fire crews to defend homes. If possible, the volunteers may also begin targeting complete eradication of broom on San Pedro Mountain by clearing areas further away from the neighborhoods.

This project aims to benefit the residents of the various neighborhoods adjacent to San Pedro Mountain by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Additionally, the efforts aim to benefit those same communities by improving the beauty and well-being of the woodland area for recreation.