BERKELEY (KPIX) — Months of drought conditions have made the East Bay hills a tinderbox. Fire conditions are so dangerous, the Berkeley Fire Department was advising people to map out evacuation plans, as a precaution.
Friday, state officials were on hand to see the efforts on the ground. In the morning fog, East Bay Regional Parks leaders gathered to review their preparations for a worst case scenario — a wind-driven fire, pushed out of the canyons and into the hills.READ MORE: Elon Musk, Tesla Super Fans Blast Biden Administration Move Toward Regulating Autopilot
“This is what you want,” says Mike Sweeny with the EBRPD Fire Department, pointing to a thinned area. “Get a surface fire. Down there, you can tell, and there’s no history down there, either. No fire history. It was kind of scary thinking about it. But if you do get one, come up here, and hold it here and do it backfire. Bring it down.”
That work has been unfolding in a patchwork, piece by piece, long enough now that the east side of the ridge is noticeably thinner in some areas.
“My first reaction is relief,” says resident Rita Carlson. “It’s a lot of stress to see the dry brush all around, with everything that’s going on.”READ MORE: Flash Flood Watches Issued As Storm Aims at Fire-Scarred Northern California
It’s a massive task, stretching over dozens of miles and thousands of acres. The district admits it has to prioritize the best it can.
“Proximity to homes, residential areas,” explains EBRPD Board President Dee Rosario. “Proximity to exits and egress, and also we were seeing tree die-off, we have to go in there and clean those out.”
“It’s little pieces, but this, you have to come back a couple years later,” Sweeny adds. “That’s the problem, we have so much land. To maintain it you have to be on top of it. There’s still a lot of work out there. There’s areas we haven’t even touched.”
Work like this is credited with saving entire neighborhoods along Highway 50 as the Caldor Fire burned toward South Lake Tahoe.MORE NEWS: Amid the Capitol Riot, Facebook Faced Its Own Insurrection
“You know, we saw the flame front, according to firefighters, go from 150 feet, which is 150 story building, down to 15 feet, where they could attack that fire,” says California Natural Resources Agency Deputy Secretary. Jessica Morse. “I’ve stood at some of those fuel breaks and seen those communities where they are standing, in Myers, today, because that fuel reduction was done in advance.”