Redwood Regional Park Sees Flames

Did you hear about the half-acre grass fire in Redwood Regional Park today?  No?  That’s probably the best sign of all, because the fire was tamped down rapidly.  Not surprisingly, our first responders worked well together.

According to the Tribune, the fire was called in before 4pm and contained by 5pm.  Firefighters from Oakland, the California Department of Forestry and East Bay Regional Parks appeared very quickly and applied brute force.

Oakland Fire Dept

First Responders and Residents Ready

Sometimes we have to point out when good stuff happens.  Ever since the Oakland Hills fire of 1991, cooperation among first responders – regardless of jurisdiction – shows they mean business about preparing for the inevitable conflagrations.

In addition, homeowners have to adhere to strict fire safety codes and are fined if they let the hazards grow wild on their properties.  There’s plenty of responsibility shouldered by Oaklanders living in the Wildfire Prevention District (WPD).

Wildfire Prevention Takes Planning

The planning doesn’t ever end.  In fact, anyone living in the wildfire district is welcome to attend the annual WPD Advisory Committee retreat this Thursday from 9am – 5pm, at the Henry Trudeau Training Center (11500 Skyline Blvd, map).

Each year, WPD committee members take a full day to discuss Oakland’s vegetation management and education programs.  They actively shape policy, procedures and policies related to living along the urban-wilderness divide for the coming year.  The committee also meets monthly, and you can drop by any third-Thursday as well.

While we know that fires begin for multiple reasons, we still kinda like Smokey the Bear who says “only you can prevent forest fires.”  In this Redwood Regional Park flare-up, it’s not clear how the fire began but it was snuffed out well…this time.

More info:  Oakland Wildfire Prevention DistrictCity Prevention SiteAdvisory CommitteeMeeting Times

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!

Keep Compliant With Fire Code

Every fire season, inspectors prowl around our hills and make sure that property owners aren’t lax about maintaining defensible space between vegetation and homes.  It’s easy to violate codes with such verdant growth here.

We live within the Oakland Wildfire Prevention District, which is classified as a very high hazard severity zone.  The big hills fires appear like clockwork, and the last one happened 18 years ago.  That means we (well, you) need to keep the potential tinder at bay.

Fire Code - Out Of Compliance

Starting June 15th, the inspectors begin checking our compliance with California Fire Codes.  There are full-timers assigned to homes within Montclair, and they visit properties unannounced all summer.  They are looking for “bad” vegetation growth and more, as depicted in this video.

So it’s time to get your property cleared out!  Otherwise, the City of Oakland will charge $275 if you don’t meet codes and require a re-inspection.

Compliance Requirements

Here are the official things you need to do:

  1. Maintain a 30-foot fuel reduction zone around all buildings/structures; more may be required. Cut grass to 6 inches or less. Shrubs need to be maintained.
  2. If property is greater than 1/2 acre, maintain a 100 ft.  defensible space/fuel reduction zone from all buildings and neighboring structures; more may be required.
  3. Maintain a 10-foot minimum clearance next to the roadside; more may be required.
  4. Remove all portions of trees within 10 feet of chimney and/or stovepipe outlets.
  5. Maintain a 10 feet minimum horizontal clearance of tree crowns from any structure.
  6. Maintain the roof of any structure free of leaves, needles or other dead/dying vegetation.
  7. Maintain trees adjacent to structures free of dead/dying vegetation.  Remove dead/dying vegetation from property.
  8. Remove all tree limbs within 6 feet of the ground.
  9. Wood chips must not be deeper than 6 inches (no piles).
  10. Provide Street address numbers that are clearly visible from the roadside: minimum height 4 inches, in a contrasting color.
  11. Storage of firewood shall be located a minimum of 20 feet from structures and separated from the crown of trees by a minimum horizontal distance of 15 feet.

Hauling The Debris

All this compliance translates into a lot of yard debris.  Of course, trimmings should be placed in your green cart for weekly pick-up.

Extra trimmings will get picked up, at no extra charge, if you place them in your own container (under 35 gallons) or deposit them in a brown paper bag next to your cart.  You can also bundle a few branches no larger than 4′ long for pick-up.  Nothing in plastic bags here!

To handle seasonal efforts, you may take advantage of a free curbside tree and brush chipping service.  You need to leave branches no greater than 4” in diameter, stack them in piles no greater than 4’ by 4’ long, and have no more than two stacks per pick-up.  Please call the chipping crew in advance, at 510-238-7388.

If you are dumping more debris regularly, then it’s possible to pay $7.59 monthly for a second green cart.  For those who do clean up in one fell swoop, you may want to arrange a one-time bulky pickup.  For any additional services, call Waste Management at 510-613-8710.

More info:   Oakland Wildfire Prevention DistrictPrevention VideoClean-up ServicesHomeowner FlyerOakland Recycles

Montclair Mirror: Your Searches Tell All

Today we would like to share what’s interesting to Montclarions, as reflected by the most popular searches conducted to find Today in Montclair and postings clicked once here.  In case you are worried, nothing traces back to individuals at all.

Let’s start with what you searched throughout 2008.  Bar none, the Hans Reiser case was the most sordid and popular news of the year.  Beyond that infamous murder case, our most prevalent concerns related to local fires, burglaries, voting, home values, and a little shopping.

Reiser On 48 Hours

All Things Reiser: Our famous murder case featured computer expert Hans Reiser, who killed and buried his wife in the hills.  We were aghast at the court proceedings, Nina’s recovery and their poor kids.  CBS-TV even aired a special 48 Hours program last night, where Hans reflected on his crime:

I felt that I was trying to keep my children safe….I feel very sad.  Sometimes, sometimes keeping children safe doesn’t lead to happiness.  In the law, there’s a difference between killing and murder.  I think that Rory deserved to be safe, which is different from thinking that Nina deserved to die.  I don’t think that people who hurt children or threaten to hurt children should die, but I think that children should be safe.  And I’m very sorry that Nina died.

Fires: There’s ongoing interest in local fires, long after the flames have been snuffed out.  As everyone knows, there were two main events this past year, namely the pre-season Hiller flare-up below homes and above Rt 24; and the late-season Tilden blaze mistakenly set during controlled burning.

Crimes: Of course, all the local crimes deserved our attention and there were some creative efforts like the restaurant stick-ups.  More recently, there have been perpetrators casing the hills and later breaking in.  While we have apprehended some burglars, there’s ongoing interest in how to protect our hearths.

Voting: This civic discourse was heartening, at national and local levels.  We wanted to attend an Obama rally, know exactly where to vote, and find out election results.  The interest in village leaders, local reps, and measures like OO and  WW was strong as well.

Home Values: The top searches related to median prices which recently held steady, as well as foreclosures and their movements.  Many villagers have lived here a long time, before cheap credit appeared.  As the market contracts and job losses mount, we’re holding our breath for the bad news ahead.

Pizza, Pizza: The sad truth is that Montclarions searched for pizza places more than anything else, except the Reiser murder.  Do you recall The Net (1995) with Sandra Bullock, when she ordered pizza online?  It’s nothing today to check menus or reviews online, though we still place orders by phone.  Searches for other edibles paled by comparison.

More Goods: Yes, the web has become our new yellow pages.  The searches for clothing, gifts and kids stuff remained steady all year.  Of course the search volumes spiked over the holidays, including decorations, village events and giving back to others.

So there you have it, a Montclair mirror held up to our collective souls.  We care about larger issues in our community, staying safe at home, and maybe trying to save a little time.  Just a microcosm of Hills life, I suppose.

Fire Season’s Officially Over

Hallelujah, the fire season’s officially over!

We fared well this year, with no real damage to home and hearth.  No one was forced to flee, like the Big One back in 1991.  Look at this photo showing everyone driving, one-way through town – and with the fires raging only a few miles behind them.

Oakland Fire 1991

During the 2008 season, we had two “book-end” fires:  one early and one late in the season.

The Hiller fire arrived in June and burned three acres.  It looked intense but was snuffed out quickly because we were, well, prepared for this sort of fire in the same place as 1991.

At the end of October, there was a controlled burn-gone-bad outside Tilden Park.  The Grizzly Peak fire burned around ten acres in the woods, but was put out quickly by coordinated fire fighters.

Add a few official Red Flag Warning days, where the winds are high and anything can ignite – and call the Fire Season over.