Wildfire! What Should You Do?

Wildfire! What Should You Do?

Speaker Kathy Woofter, Consolidated Fire District, Contra Costa
Blog Post

Gail Murray, LWVDV reporter

Junipers around your house are easy to maintain.  And the tall pine tree that towers over your roof is stately.  Howeer, these plants, along with eucalyptus and pampas grass, are some of the most fire prone vegetation and can quickly ignite your house, according to Kathy Woofter, Prevention Specialist with the Contra Costa Fire District, at the League’s Wildfire! program. Woofter was one of four panelists at the August 20 program at Heather Farm Park.

“The safety of your home depends on how your neighbors are maintaining their home,” said Woofter.   Even if you don’t have junipers or pine trees, your neighbor might.  Woofter volunteered to speak to groups of neighbors and homeowners’ associations about the 30-100 foot defensible space needed around homes to prevent destruction from wildfires.

Walnut Creek Police Captain Steve Gorski described the city’s emergency preparedness plan, and said that the first action residents can take is to be sure they are signed up for emergency notifications.Nixle,   http://www.nixle.com/, is a free app and communication tool that connects residents with Walnut Creek Police Department alerts, and can be used for evacuations, security threats, severe weather, road closures and more. He also recommended signing up for your local Next Door app at https://nextdoor.comEven though Next Door may include information extraneous to your interests, the police department does use it to reach people with its alerts.  (See our Wildfire Issues page for more tools and resources.)

PG&E does NOT proactively shut off power to entire cities, said Pamela Purdue, PG&E Senior Public Safety Specialist.  This is misinformation brought about by reports of PG&E’s plan to prevent wildfires, she said.  A shut-off is triggered by the combination of a red flag warning day and low relative humidity.  Low humidity is caused by a lack of cooling overnight after a hot day. The criteria also include sustained winds of 25 miles per hour and gusts of 45 miles per hour.  Under these combined circumstances, PG&E’s meteorologists will make a power safety decision.  Residents of the affected area will be given 48-hours-notice, then 24-hours-notice, and then again just before the power is cut off. 

Because equipment and power lines have to be inspected after a shut-off, it can take 24-48 hours to restore the power.  Urban areas will be restored more quickly than remote communities. “We know that shut-offs can impact police and fire services and that there are bad people out there,” said Purdue, indicating that PG&E will work diligently to get power restored.

Laura Johnson, a volunteer with the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), described actions residents can take to make themselves ready.  CERT trains community members in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.  She said that residents can sit through the training classes to educate themselves even if they don’t want to commit to being a CERT volunteer.

The message from all four panelists is that to survive a wildfire, it is wise to be prepared.


Diablo Firesafe Council, www.diablofiresafe.org, is offering cost-sharing assistance of up to $5,000/project to civic or homeowners’ associations or organized groups of individuals to hire a contractor to reduce fuel loads and create defensible space on properties.  Projects can include chipping, weed whacking, tree thinning or removal, brush cutting, and grazing.  Projects must be in Alameda or Contra Costa Counties within a local or Cal Fire hazard area or a federal Community at Risk.  Applications are due November 15, 2019.  Contact Cheryl Miller, Executive Coordinator at DFSCMiller [at] comcast.net.  

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