Lamorinda Weekly issue 23 volume 8

Page: A8
Fire Districts
Public Meetings
Moraga-Orinda Fire
District Board of Directors
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m.
Go to as the
meeting date approaches for
location and more information
ConFire Board of Directors
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 1:30 p.m.
Board Chamber room 107,
Administration Building,
651 Pine St., Martinez
For meeting times and agendas,
Emergency response information
and training:
Lamorinda Community
Emergency Response Team (CERT)
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and opinions with your
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(925) 283-8744
3408 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Lafayette
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
One District, Indivisible
3744 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 100, Lafayette
(925) 262-4242
Wyro Retires from the MOFD Board
By Nick Marnell
Retired MOFD Director John Wyro
Photo provided
he refrain “But that’s the way
we’ve always done it” has
been the undoing of many a manager or company. As John Wyro
relates, that phrase sparked the for-
Since 1993!
Tom Gieryng, owner and operator
mation of the Moraga-Orinda Fire
District, from which he retired in
December after nearly 17 years of
service as district director.
A few months after Wyro’s appointment as a director of the old
Orinda Fire District, the fire chief
walked into his office. “He handed
me a copy of a budget and said that
we needed to approve it that night,”
said Wyro. “I told him that I can’t
do that, and he said that was the
way it’s always been done. Needless to say, it didn’t happen.
“As we dug into it,” continued
Wyro, “the more we realized that
Orinda was subsidizing (the Contra
Costa County Fire Protection District). We had old equipment, and
most of all, no paramedics, and terrible response times. More often
than not, (American Medical Response) had an ambulance in Walnut Creek responding to our
emergencies. We started talking
with Moraga and we decided we
should become our own district.
We put a group together and formed
MOFD in 1997. Day one, we had
paramedics staffing engines,”
which Wyro credited to the efforts
of interim chief Mel Deardorf.
“John always believed that
since the new Moraga-Orinda Fire
District was now serving a larger
constituency, it was truly one dis-
trict serving all residents equally,”
said Gordon Nathan, one of the
original district directors.
MOFD made national headlines in 2009 when it was revealed
that upon retirement fire chief Pete
Nowicki spiked his pension to an
amount significantly higher than
his final salary. “It was my biggest
mistake and disappointment,” said
Wyro, speaking of the board’s approval of that retirement package.
“My lack of feeling the need to go
into the kind of depth necessary to
investigate that situation, well ... it
was a question I didn’t ask and
should have.” The district has
eliminated the spiking program in
the fire chiefs’ contracts.
Wyro left no doubt as to his top
accomplishment. “It was bringing
paramedics to Orinda,” he said. “I
know as a result of our efforts
doing that, lives have been saved.
There are people walking around
today who wouldn’t be if we hadn’t
done that.”
Many think of Wyro’s leadership in the fire station 46 joint venture between MOFD and ConFire.
“I would like to have finished it,
but I’ll be at the hearings,” he said.
“I understand the process. I know
the players in Lafayette, so I think
I can help make it happen as a volunteer citizen. At a minimum, I’ll
be at every board meeting where
that’s a topic, and I’ll be at the
He would not validate the complaints of a grass roots committee
that claims north Orinda response
times will be increased if station 43
is razed and replaced by station 46.
“The district represents a larger
constituency than just the folks
around station 43. When all is said
and done and they see the facts,
their arguments are going to
wither,” he said, again emphasizing
the district as a single entity.
“It’s good to have board
turnover,” said Wyro. “It was time
for me to go, time to get a different
look at things.” Though, he did say
that he was prepared to file papers
to run again, and that he would have
served another term to finish up station 46 if no candidate surfaced
whom he was happy with. “But, I
am very comfortable with Brad
(Barber) and I think he is going to
be a very good director,” he said.
MOFD director Fred Weil
served 11 years on the board with
Wyro. “It was always a pleasure to
work with John, in part because he
would speak directly to issues with
no hidden motives or agendas,” he
said. “His focus has always been
on the welfare of the whole district
and its residents.”
Got an Issue? There’s an App for That
esidents yearning to report issues like barking dogs, signal
outages, abandoned vehicles, overgrown trees, unsafe sidewalks or even
potholes can alert city staff with a few
simple clicks of a smartphone. Late
last year the tech-savvy City of
Lafayette announced the launch of a
Code Enforcement application for
smartphones. The mobile app, called
GORequest can be downloaded on
Apple and Android devices and al-
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lows users to include specific details
of an issue. “It allows users to take a
picture, select an issue type, add comments and include a location of the
complaint,” said Code Enforcement
Officer Adam Foster. “Information is
then instantaneously forwarded to the
appropriate staff member.” For those
without a smartphone, there is an online Code Enforcement Request form,
or simply call the code enforcement
officer at (925) 299-3207. C. Tyson
James Burkin
Sole Proprietor
Beware the person who doubts
this, following him into the bush.
Silva has a mission. And that mission
is to put back the redwood trees that
were all sawed down and hauled out
just about 100 years ago, in the early
1900s and before, planting them back
into the bramble and thimble that has
become an establishment of his
hacked down, replanted watershed.
The Monterey pines are gradually
getting taken out. As EBMUD ranger
and naturalist Matt Sporleder said,
“Someone in the 1950s thought that
was a good idea” to plant those Monterey pines. Think again, he says.
“Those trees are dying and they
only have about a 50-year lifespan,”
Sporleder said of the pines. “Mark
Silva has a vision for that area.” To
that end, Silva has taken it upon himself, for the past 20 years, to collect
endemic seeds, germinate them in his
back yard in Castro Valley, nurture the
seedlings at the EBMUD yard in
Orinda, then transplant the trees back
into the watershed. He even goes out
in the spring to the creeks and nets the
pools of fallen redwood seeds that
have blown down, dries them, then
plants them scatter-style in his nursery
to see what sprouts.
“I really don’t know what I’m
doing,” he says modestly. But then
again – it’s at least 400 trees later. For
instance, on a recent hike through the
watershed, a woman leading a Welsh
pony called out to Silva: “Are you
checking on your trees?” Silva muffled a yep. “They’re doing good!” she
“I’ve watched him,” said pony
owner Karen Bottiani of Lafayette,
contacted later by phone. “He’s a really good guy. What he is doing is
going to completely change that landscape. It’s going to put it back where
it used to be. This place is going to
look completely different in 50
years.” More like it used to look, she
said. She has seen him in dry seasons
carrying 5-gallon jugs of water to redwood seedlings that need that first jolt
for the first couple of years. “If they
get water in that first year, that’s what
counts,” Bottiani said. “He’s making
sure those trees get that.”
Silva’s goal is simple: Replace the
non-native Monterey pine with the
more fire resistant native coast redwood. He not only wants to protect
obstruction of the public road by
falling pines, but to protect the watershed from unnecessary runoff into the
actual water by having sustainable
trees that don’t fall down in a big
wind storm. To that end, in 2003 Silva
found what he calls the “glory hole,”
something a public relations savvy reporter told him was a bad name for a
hole. Silva did not know what she
meant. Instead, he espoused on how
he had found a hundred, no hundreds,
of saplings in an area that he pillaged
for seedlings and, while leaving
plenty, dispersed them throughout the
“Here’s one!” shouted Silva, diving into a pile of poison oak. “I didn’t
know this one made it.” He subsequently began to tear down the broom
overshadowing the pre-pubescent
tree, shining light on its pale green
branches. “Here you go!” Silva said,
but he swears he doesn’t talk to the
“I’m not kidding,” said Sporleder,
who is taking out a Girl Scout troop
later this month to plant 20 more redwood trees from Silva’s nursery. “He
goes out when it’s raining hard and
just stands there. He wants to know
where the water is going. He wants to
see where the erosion is happening.
He looks and sees what needs to be
done to keep the water clean and the
soil in place.”
“Then he plants trees,” Sporleder
On a recent day at the Valle Vista
lot, several acorn woodpeckers flew
in to take their spots on remaining
Monterey pine snags. What about
“Oh! We kept those snags there
just for that reason,” Silva said. “The
woodpeckers like them.” He calmly
looked down at his wrist, and it
wasn’t’ even 10 a.m. “Hey! I got
10,000 steps!” (On his Fitbit device.)
“Now let’s go see some trees.”