Could Clayton be another Lahaina?

Massive destruction in Lahaina holds lessons for Clayton.
Guest Editorial by Holly Tillman, Clayton council member.

CLAYTON, CA (Oct. 17, 2023) — I was vacationing with my family in Maui in August when the fires started. We were on the other side of the island from the fires, but we could tell something was happening with all of the haze we could see on the horizon and smoke we saw when we flew home Aug. 8.

I woke up the next morning to the news of the destruction of the beautiful town of Lahaina, and the tragic loss of life there. My heart goes out to the people of Lahaina and the difficulties they will face in the months and years to come.

For years we have been seeing increasingly destructive wildfires. What the devastation on Maui drove home to me, was that if it can happen to Lahaina, it can happen anywhere – even in Clayton.

Clayton is a classic example of what the fire service calls Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI. Living at the base of Mt. Diablo and being surrounded by our other wonderful parks and open spaces gives us our views and trails, and makes Clayton a beautiful, special place to live that we all treasure. However, this beauty comes at a price, and like other WUI communities, Clayton has a heightened risk of wildfire. We all need to recognize this and learn from the recent past. And we need to act.

Flaming embers

The Camp Fire in 2018.

Many homes lost during these major fire events are not lost because they were immediately adjacent to forested or open areas. They were ignited by wind-blown flaming embers. When embers ignite homes, the homes become the fuel and the fire becomes an urban conflagration – like Paradise, like Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, and like Lahaina. So, it is not just the homes on the edges of Clayton that are at risk, but our whole community.

It’s time to get smart about fire. It’s time to get Firewise. I am going to be hosting a town hall with local stakeholders on Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Hoyer Hall inside the Clayton Community Library. Join us for this initial community meeting to establish the first Firewise Community in Clayton. It is my hope and my vision that every neighborhood in Clayton will become a Firewise community. And we will all be better and safer together. All it takes is at least eight residences in a neighborhood to create a Firewise Community so speak to your neighbors and friends, other local stakeholders and people who have experienced wildfire firsthand about joining together to make your neighborhood safer from wildfire.

In the meantime, in addition to creating a defensible space and zero ignition zone around your home, you also need be sure your entire roof is free from combustible debris.

To learn more, register with the following systems using these links:

Contact Holly Tillman at