Following the transition into fire season by CAL FIRE, the East Bay Regional Park District is also transitioning and preparing for wildland fire season effective May 15, 2017 in its 120,000 acres of parklands in the counties of Contra Costa and Alameda.
“The East Bay Regional Park District has a major role in fire prevention and protection of park visitors, staff and natural and cultural resources,” said EBRPD Assistant Fire Chief Paul Cutino. “We have already had our first fire of the year, and our neighboring fire departments are experiencing an abnormally high number of fires. We need everyone to be alert and obey fire danger restrictions in the parklands.”
Park supervisors are working with local fire agencies to remove weeds as needed on parklands, and park staff are creating and maintaining a defensible space around park structures to allow firefighters to more safely defend them in the event of a wildfire. District staff are actively implementing a wildfire hazardous fuel reduction program to improve fire protection on parklands in the East Bay hills and other wildland urban interface areas. District fire crews, contract tree removal companies and even organized neighborhood groups are aiding in this effort.
Cutino said this year’s winter rains promoted a heavy grass crop and abundant growth on brush and trees. Vegetation is drying earlier than normal and any late rains will contribute to an already significant grass crop. Once these grasses cure, this fuel load could produce intense, fast-moving fires. This will be especially true on dry, windy days in areas where topography also contributes to fire spread. The heavier fuels, like brush, will soon be dry enough to burn actively, and the combination of heavy grass and brush will likely present a challenge to our suppression capabilities. These fires will be especially worrisome when they move into dense forest stands. Torching trees launch burning embers high into the air, possibly igniting fires hundreds or thousands of yards downwind. “We need the public to be aware of fire danger, and to take action to help us protect people and parks this season,” said Chief Cutino. “Many of our parks have signs with Smokey Bear and an adjective rating of the current fire danger. Or ask any park ranger.”
“While our efforts to reduce the risk of severe wildfires are extensive, residents can take steps to reduce flammable brush and foliage around their homes too. Visit ebparks.org or contact your local fire department for tips on reducing fire risks,” added Interim Fire Chief John Swanson.
The Park District offers these park fire safety recommendations: • Be extra careful with fire. Of the 6,000+ California wildfires every year, more than 90% are caused by people. • Be prepared for the worst. Have a plan for gathering family members, pets and valuables in case an approaching wildfire requires evacuation. • Observe and obey the Fire Department warning signs and park restrictions. • Be alert and report any small fires immediately by calling 9-1-1. • While visiting our parks use extra caution with charcoal and gas barbecues. Be sure to use your barbecue in a clear area, away from dry grass or brush. Make sure coals are cold before disposing of them.
In some cases, parks may be closed because of fire danger, and everyone should comply to help prevent fires in our beautiful regional parks. Visit www.ebparks.org/fireweather for more information. The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The system comprises 120,000 acres in 65 parks including over1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.