Visitors reminded to be fire safe in regional parks

October peak of already catastrophic fire season

THIS year’s fire season has been one of the most devastating on record with five of the 20 most destructive wildfires in California history happening this year. Locally, we have had five major fires in our parks – Round Valley, Morgan Territory, Mission Peak, Sunol Wilderness, and Ohlone Wilderness – all caused by severe weather and lightning on August 15, 2020. These fires were part of the SCU Lighting Complex Fire, which burned 396,624 total acres and was active for 44 days.

Photo by Snapwire from Pexels

Though already catastrophic, the height of fire season is typically October when the heat of summer has dried out vegetation, and hot, dry Diablo winds from the east create dangerous fire conditions. Now is the time to be vigilant and work together to prevent wildfires.

What the public should do

Park visitors can provide critical help in preventing wildfires by being alert in parks and following common-sense, every-day fire-safe rules:

• Smoking is prohibited in all Regional Parks. This prohibition includes vaping.

• Be aware of Red Flag Warning, fire danger levels, and park fire safety rules. Abide by all posted or announced fire safety rules.

• If you see a fire in a park, call 911 immediately. Report the fire’s location, size, and direction of burn, if possible. If in a park, leave immediately for your safety.

• Practice situational awareness. Be alert for any potential fire hazards and report them.

• During a fire emergency, cooperate with all instructions and evacuation orders from firefighters, police, and park staff.

What the east bay regional park district is doing

The Park District works throughout the year to reduce fire fuels and risks in parks, as well as prepare and stay ready for wildfires, including:

• Maintaining a professional fire department with 16 full-time firefighters and over 34 on-call firefighters who have other District jobs but are fully trained and available when needed.

• Grazing approximately 65 percent of the District’s parkland throughout the year with cattle, goats, and sheep that help to reduce fire fuels.

• An eight-member fuel reduction crew works year-round to enhance fire safety by clearing brush, trimming trees, and carrying out controlled burning.

• Headquarters is Fire Station 1 at Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley. Seven other stations throughout the District are staffed as circumstances demand.

• Two helicopters serve as observation platforms to determine fire location, spread direction, and best access for ground crews. The helicopters are also equipped with Bambi buckets to drop water on fires when needed.

As part of a larger network, the District maintains Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS) in four regional parks that provide data to headquarters and the region on temperature, wind speed and direction, and moisture to help determine the fire danger level.

The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.

(From East Bay Regional Park District)

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