Posts Tagged ‘Fire Prevention

06
Mar
12

Creating A Non-Ignition Zone

Montclarions know that spring is awesome, with blooming flowers and greenery.  Most of us live on forested hills, where foliage grows prodigiously this time of year.  We’re all responsible for constantly trimming back and remaining code-compliant within the Wildfire Prevention District.  It’s a small price to pay, to protect our domiciles from the next Diablo Winds firestorm.

To learn more about “non-ignition zone” best practices, Montclarions and other Oakland Hills dwellers are invited to a special, free and educational Fire Prevention Meeting.  Mark your calendars for this Thursday evening, from 7-9 pm.

The North Hills Community Association (NCHA) has organized this event, featuring local experts and officials, at the Highlands Country Club (map).  No RSVP is needed, and we’re asked to park on the road outside the club.

Bob Sieben, who chairs the NCHA Fire Prevention Committee, has shared this agenda:

  • It’s about…six feet.  The main goal is to keep the six feet around your home free and clear of overgrowth.  Carol Rice will discuss which plants are appropriate and which are not in this key area. She is a natural resource manager and fire ecologist in private practice developing fire management plans with Wildland Resource Management, Inc.  Clients include homeowners associations, private developers and the City of Oakland. She is the past president of the California-Nevada-Hawaii Fire Council.
  • It’s about landscaping decisions.  Cheryl Miller will discuss landscaping issues in the non-ignition zone.  She is a registered Landscape Architect in private practice in Oakland who has worked with a wide range of construction and planning projects in the wildland urban interface in the East Bay hills. She is executive director of the Diablo Fire Safe Council and has served on the Board of the California Fire Safe Council.
  • It’s about what fire marshals do.  Leroy Griffen will discuss what inspectors look for in this critical area.  He is the Assistant Fire Marshal for the Oakland Fire Department.  (You do want to avoid those fines, right?)
  • It’s about neighbor reps, too.  Barbara Goldenberg attended the national wildland/urban interface fire education conference and has chaired the Advisory Committee to the Oakland Wildfire Prevention Committee.

Have you become blasé about learning new ways to protect your castles and cottages?  It’s time to double check your seasonal efforts, take a look at what grows around your home, and create a larger non-ignition zone.  History tells us that we’re ready for a major fire soon, since Diablo wind-fueled fires strike every two decades…like clockwork.

30
May
10

Eucalyptus, As Political Hot Potato

Eucalyptus has become the newest political hot potato.  While the opinions aren’t exactly this cut and dry, there are three main camps:  folks who want to save the trees; others who call for selective pruning; and still others who want to cut them down.

We wanted to pay a little homage first, and walked in the hills today.  The eucalyptus are everywhere, standing sentinel on many hillsides.  We noticed these trees, below, while ambling along the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  Within East Bay MUD territory, these specimens were quite tall and there were a couple tree stumps here and there.

The Hills Conservation Network (HCN), which aims to save trees, filed a suit against the East Bay Regional Park District last Tuesday.  The group is looking to prevent any tree removals, until there’s sufficient environmental study about the 20-year impact of removing half a million trees.  According to HCN’s press release:

Large scale removal of pine, eucalyptus and acacia trees is a radical plan to restore the landscape to the way it may have looked 200 years ago.  Removal of thousands of trees eliminates their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a main culprit in global warming.  This is poor forest management and ineffective fire prevention — and it harms the environment.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about limiting the impact of the next firestorm.  The hills are part of the Wildfire Prevention District where, like clockwork, the Diablo Winds fuel fires every two decades or so.  Ever wiser since the 1991 firestorm, we’re all trying to mitigate the fire fuels – whether on public or private lands.

Homeowners know the drill each summer, as we’re required to maintain “defensible space” between the greenery and our homes.  Everyone keeps things under control or else gets fined, and must adhere to very tight regulations.

The eucalyptus have become a real point of contention, with different opinions about whether or how to clear them on public lands.   Other plant species may or may not grow successfully near them.  Various chemicals might be acceptable or not, when clearing eucalyptus and other growth.  And some selective de-limbing and chopping might be useful.

To shake this all out, it comes down to what is best for supporting the natural environment and for reducing potential fire damage.  There’s plenty of human sparks coming from scientists, arborists, environmentalists and fire marshals who are debating here – and we’re curious where you stand.

19
Apr
10

Yes, Goats Are Back!

Sure enough, our beloved goats have returned from their off-season stomping grounds.  We spotted the billies roaming the lower reaches of Hiller Highlands this afternoon,  making rapid progress on a now-mowed patch.  You might catch a glimpse yourself, while looping from 24 West to 13 South.

With brush growing quickly around here, these goats contribute to annual fire-prevention efforts.  The East Bay Regional Park District has scheduled two major grazings this year – first in Claremont Canyon from May 23rd – June 3rd, and then at Redwood Regional Park from July 19th – August 4th.

To prepare for fire season, the goats won’t have to operate alone.  The Park District already has cut down brush and intends to oversee controlled burns along with local fire officials.  As soon as calm weather prevails, these burns will take place in Gwinn Canyon, a high-risk area flanking Claremont Canyon.  So don’t be alarmed if you see a little weekday smoke in the hills.

Within a couple weeks, Montclarions will need to start working as well.  It’s almost time to get out your machetes and slay the greenery growing too closely to your homes.  While still a whisper, there will be rallying cries:  defensible space! defensible space! defensible space!

April 20th Update:  The NY Times Bay Area blog reported about local goats, since our Oakland City Council is deliberating on whether to approve (or not approve) $250k for goat grazing on city-owned lands.

09
Jul
09

Goats Are Better Than People

Hands down, goats are better than people for weed-wacking duties.

In the East Bay, we rely on goat herds to prevent fires every summer.  They are willing laborers who eat away at weeds and overgrowth, and generally help keep us safe.  Right now, you can see hundreds of them perched across the hillsides near the Oakland Zoo – and they are a sight to behold.

Fire Prevention Goats

In contrast, Los Angelenos employ human beings to eliminate weeds.  Yesterday, some weed-wackers were working near the Getty Museum and sparked a severe brush fire.  Yes, the people attempting to prevent fires actually caused one.

This brush fire began Wednesday before 1pm, and is now 90% contained.  According the LA Times, the fire forced the evacuation of 1,600 Getty visitors and 800 employees, as well as 75 people at Mount St. Mary’s College nearby.  Several 405 Freeway exits were closed, though things may get back to normal fairly soon.

This time, Los Angeles folks were spared because the fire blew away from civilization.  However LA fires are just as prevalent as fires up here, and prevention measures do matter.  Maybe there’s a lesson learned:  Get rid of the people!  Rely on the goats as we do!

24
Jun
08

Oakland’s Goats Prevent Fires

This morning, I noticed hundreds of goats hard at work.  They are quickly munching through brush and grasses – and getting rid of the tinder that spreads fires.  As you drive on Rt. 580, glance over to the hills near Knowland Park.  You can’t miss the munching workers!

These goats actively tour the area.  Last month, I spotted them on a field between Rts. 238 and 880.  I wondered when they would make their next appearance, and am glad they have returned.

According to the Governator, fire season is “all year” now.  Of course, the 800 fires raging through California are mind-blowing, and very early this year.

For the Oakland Hills, let’s hope the Hiller flare-up is our 2008 fire story.  We have to be realistic, though, about the continued risks from man-made and natural sparks.  Thus our goat workers are welcomed allies, beforehand.




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Welcome to Montclair, Oakland

We live in the city yet are invaded by nature - or perhaps it's the other way around. Stop by often, and find out what's interesting to 94611 denizens.


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