Fire Hazard Mitigation Updates

FIRE HAZARD MITIGATION

Wildfires are a threat in El Cerrito due to our proximity to the Hillside Natural Area and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. The Fire Department has made vegetation management and emergency preparedness a priority. To this end, we have been busy overseeing the City's Vegetation Management Ordinance and engaging in activities to reduce the occurrence of a wildfire in El Cerrito.

VEGETATION MANAGEMENT

The Fire Prevention Office has completed the inspection of all parcels in El Cerrito regarding ensuring that vegetation is managed in a way to not being a fire hazard. This year we have sent out 982 citations for properties not meeting the Fire Department’s Vegetation Management Standards. This is almost three times the number of citations we’ve sent out in previous years. Property owners will have 30 or more days to bring their property into compliance prior to being re-inspected.

PARTNERING WITH EAST BAY REGIONAL PARK DISTRICT

After years of discussion and planning, East Bay Regional Parks is in full swing with their fuel removal and reduction on the City’s eastern border to Wildcat Canyon, creating a 200 foot buffer between the canyon and the ridge top homes as well as the rest of the City.

In February, ECFD met with representatives from the East Bay Parks Fire Division and were shown the extensive work planned for this spring and summer. Additionally, the East Bay Parks Fire Division is planning fuel break and fuel reduction from Richmond Heights to Kensington. This work will provide a better defense to any potential vegetation fires originating in the park. Updates will be provided when the work starts and as it progresses.

FIRE PREVENTION and brush CLEARING IN HILLSIDE NATURAL AREA & WILDCAT CANYON

Late last year, hearing the resident’s concerns about the fire danger in the HNA, the City Manager directed the Fire Department to work at clearing more brush, dead trees, small eucalyptus trees, poison oak and other unwanted growth. This work was initiated in numerous areas including the King Court area, the Boy Scout Bench area as well Potrero Hill and was over and beyond what was completed earlier in 2018.

DateActivity
June 2019The Fire Department has completed all the controlled burns in the Hillside Natural Area for the year. We were able to utilize the Delta Camp hand crews for 4 weeks throughout the winter and spring to clear a substantial amount of brush in the King Court, Regency Court and Kent Drive areas. The controlled burns were the final stages for removing the over 100 piles of brush. The Fire Department is currently working with our contractor to look over the recently cleared areas, maintenance, and keeping regrowth of brush to a minimum.
May 2019Fuel reduction on the east side of the City at the boundary of Wildcat Canyon started. Initially, crews from California Conservation Corps cleared a 20-foot path behind the homes to allow surveyors to come in and determine the true property lines between residences and the park. Contractors will be coming behind the Corps to start the actual reduction and removal of brush and trees and creating a 200-foot fuel break.

Several dead trees and non-native trees were removed and considerably thinned out. The crews have on-site fuel reduction specialists and a wild land biologist checking to ensure that no endangered wildlife is being disturbed. Most of this work will be accomplished by hand and will either be chipped or burned in place. There were some areas approved for the use of mechanical clearing using masticators, which will grind the brush and stumps down to ground level.
April 2019Fire crews conducted controlled burns in the HNA above the Recycling Center and Corporation Yard. So far they burned 26 piles with at least that many more to go. These brush piles are a result of the fuel reduction that has been utilizing the Cal Fire hand crews from Delta Camp.
March 2019Delta Camp hand crews were once again in the HNA working on fuel reduction and removal. This has been the third week, since January, that we have been able to schedule them in for the assistance. During this past week the crews worked on brush removal and reduction off Regency Court, working down the north side of Kent Court. They continued with this path working all the way around the homes and back up the south side of Kent Court back towards Contra Costa Drive. This area had not been touched for years and the brush was extremally thick, as you can see in the picture on the left, above. In the picture on the right, you can see the progress with the path that has been cut and the piles that are being formed. This brush must be allowed to dry for 60 days prior to being able to burn to remove the fuel load. The Fire Department is currently distributing burn notices in the area and will be conducting burns soon.
February 2019ECFD continue to burn piles of brush in the Hillside Natural Area. There were close to 80 piles in December and almost half of these have been burned. This time of the year is advantageous for burning because of the rainfall in the last month. The surrounding grass and ground fuel are wet and provide a natural safety buffer. The Fire Department will continue these efforts until all the piles are gone, thereby reducing the fuel load in critical areas of the HNA.

CAL FIRE Delta hand crews focused on the area between King Court and Moeser Lane. This fuel break and reduction is aimed at providing a buffer zone between the residences and the drainage as well as the grove of eucalyptus trees above the Corporation Yard.
January 2019Fire crews burned piles of brush in the Hillside Natural Area near Memorial Grove as well as above the recycling center. They were piles made last year by the landscape crews as well as the CAL FIRE crews that had been doing work for us.

The Fire Department also hosted two Cal Fire hand crews in the HNA during the week of January 21. The crews, who are inmates with the State Department of Corrections, are from Delta Camp in Solano County. The 15 person crews, plus a CAL FIRE Captain, worked above the Recycling Center off King Court, below the houses and above the access road, clearing brush and making more piles to burn.


PUBLIC EDUCATION & OUTREACH

DateActivity
May 2019The Fire Department conducted a "Fire Safety Educational Walk" in the Hillside Natural Area as part of the Hillside Festival.
May 2019Hosted two community meetings on wildfire safety. See details in April 2019.
April 2019Hosted one community meeting on wildfire safety. Battalion Chief David Gibson presented “Mega Fire - The New Norm.” The topic is fire history, fire safe landscaping, making residences more fire resistant, and steps to be prepared for situational awareness and evacuation, if needed.
February 2019Police Chief Paul Keith, Fire Chief Michael Pigoni and Assistant City Manager Alexandra Orologas met with representatives from a resident group, “Make El Cerrito Fire Safe.” The meeting focused on the group’s ideas for fire safety improvements in and around the community of El Cerrito.
February 2019
Members of the El Cerrito and Kensington Police and Fire Departments met to plan evacuation routes and develop a combined evacuation map for both communities. The meeting also included discussion and identification of evacuation zones to aid in directing evacuation orders and preliminary discussions about evacuation drill planning.
2018Community participation in the El Cerrito/Kensington CERT Program continued to grow in 2018 with 60 participants in the 26-hour CERT course and 33 graduates from the two all-day certification exercises. Participation was up 25% and graduates were up 57% from 2017. We also had 35 citizens participate in the two Boot Camps

oTHER ACTIVITIES

City Emergency Operation Plan - The Fire Department has begun its work the City's Emergency Operations Plan update. 

City Staff Emergency Preparedness Training  - Chief Gibson is working with City staff to coordinate emergency training sessions on ICS-100 and ICS-700 for staff.

Social Media - The Fire Department will be phasing in the use of Facebook, Twitter, and NextDoor with the support of the City's communications manager as well as improving our website to provide more reference and educational information for residents.