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Oakland Firesafe Council

Working to reduce the risks of wildfire in the Oakland hills.

Should Oakland Move Ahead With a New Wildfire Prevention District?  Oakland Firesafe Council Says “No” For Now

Members of the Oakland Firesafe Council recently weighed in again on whether the City of Oakland should move forward with a measure to raise funds for a new Wildfire Prevention District.

Unanimously, we believe that this fall is not the time to be asking the public to pay new taxes.  The coronavirus pandemic has not only left the City of Oakland’s finances in trouble, but also those of Oakland residents.  It is our opinion that a ballot measure at this time would fail because residents do not have an appetite for new taxes—even for something as critical as wildfire prevention.

To a person, OFSC members are not in favor of a measure that would just be a repeat of the former Wildfire Prevention Assessment District. WPAD). We believe that it is the City’s responsibility to cover the costs of keeping its own properties fire safe. Furthermore, the last WPAD did not fully cover the costs of vegetation management on city-owned properties within the wildland-urban interface (WUI). We would not support a measure that only covered the annual maintenance of city properties within the WUI—even if it covered 100% of the need.

It has always been OFSC’s position that a new measure must incorporate the implementation of the City’s 10-year Vegetation Management Plan, which is still undergoing Environmental Review. At some point in the future, many—but not all—would consider supporting a measure that bundled both annual maintenance with implementation of the Vegetation Management Plan.  Others would only support a measure that covered the special projects detailed in the Vegetation Management Plan, but believe that funding for annual maintenance still belongs in the General Fund—and that the funding should realistically cover 100% of the need rather than the 70% it currently does.

Finally, the City Council should not move forward with even considering a new wildfire prevention district until the Vegetation Management is finalized and approved by the City Council. Only then will they and the public have a full understanding of the cost of reducing the risk of wildfire in the City of Oakland’s wildland interface.

Oakland Firesafe Council
May 17, 2020

Wildfire Prevention and Covid-19

Click here for an update on Covid-19 impact on City of Oakland budget and upcoming wildfire prevention efforts.

         May 11, 2020 Town Hall Meeting on Wildfire Prevention

Stay at Home Orders Demonstrate How Connecting with Your Neighbors is Important to Your Health and Safety–Now Extended to May 3 with New Restrictions; Landscapers/Contractors Allowed to Prepare Your Home for Upcoming OFD Annual Inspections set to start in May

One of the key lessons we hear and read about all over the world is how neighbors are reaching out to each other to provide support—from making grocery runs, to weekly gatherings online or from across the street.  We encourage you to connect with your neighbors to provide support and to find new ways to turn staying at home away from total isolation.  OFSC’s Oakland Community Preparedness and Response (OCP&R) program offers some tips and tools that might be useful.  We encourage you to comment on this post with your creative ideas for connecting with family, neighbors, friends, school friends, co-workers during this universal experience.

On March 31, the Oakland Fire Department announced:

Arborists, landscapers, gardeners, and similar service professionals, but only to the limited extent necessary to maintain the habitability, sanitation, operation of businesses or residences, or the safety of residents, employees, or the public (such as fire safety or tree trimming to prevent a dangerous condition), and not for cosmetic or other purposes (such as upkeep);

The full order can be found here. This exemption is listed on page 8 of 13.

Click here for a list of requirements under Oakland’s Annual Wildfire Prevention Inspections.

We’ve put together a list of reliable resources to help you adapt to the short and long term impacts of isolating at home for an unknown period of time. Click here for the latest.

Oakland Firesafe Council Endorses Concept of a Regional Wildfire Prevention Management Agency for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

Since we passed a resolution on November 17, 2018, the Oakland Firesafe Council has been working with the Claremont Canyon Conservancy and other partners to create awareness of the need for regional wildfire prevention programs.   At our March 21, 2020 meeting, we again joined the Claremont Canyon Conservancy and other wildfire prevention partners endorsing the concept of forming a Joint Powers Agreement for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties to form the East Bay Wildfire Prevention Agency.   For details, contact Jon Kaufman at Jonk@solem.com.

Thank You, Oakland

Thank you, Oakland, for supporting Oakland Firesafe Council accomplishments this past year. Click here for more.

Homeowners in Wildland Urban Interface Struggle with Insurance coverage; Sacramento responds with proposed B 2367

Most people know they have credit scores that help determine whether they get a loan and what their interest rate will be. They probably don’t know that if they live in the West, they have a wildfire risk score that could influence whether they get homeowners or renters insurance and how much they will pay.  more here from the San Francisco Chronicle of 12/15/19

Most California Insurers Don’t Incentivize Fire Prevention–San Francisco Chronicle 2/22/20.

Oakland Council Unanimously Passes Resolution Making Wildfire Prevention a City-wide Priority

On November 19, 2019, the Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution proposed by Council Members Sheng Thao (District 4) and Dan Kalb (District 1), and endorsed by the Oakland Firesafe Council and many other neighborhood organizations, designating Wildfire Prevention a top priority for the City of Oakland.  The Resolution requires the City Administrator to report back to the Public Safety Committee in 180 days with the following information:

  1. The extent to which the strategies will involve multi-disciplinary and multi-agency teams in the development of pre-fire plans,
  2. What wildfire prevention plans will include such as home hardening, evacuation and other wildfire prevention strategies for both private and public properties, and public communication strategies, before, during and after a wildfire event, and
  3. The extent to which wildfire prevention will be addressed in the next updates to the City’s General Plan, Safety, Open Space, Hazard Mitigation Plans and other similar plans.

Many thanks to all who made this possible. Now the work begins….

OFSC Comments on Concerns about Latest Version of  Vegetation Management Plan to Reduce Wildfire Risk and Upcoming Environmental Review

More than 30 neighborhood leaders and park stewards in Oakland’s wildland/urban interface signed a letter originated by the Oakland Firesafe Council registering concerns with this latest draft of the Vegetation Management Plan. “Our biggest concern is that the document uses a standard forestry approach to managing vegetation that doesn’t appear to have been tailored to Oakland’s unique topographic, vegetative and weather conditions. The standard fuel models referenced in the VMP only model surface fuels, not crown fires or wildfire/house fire combinations. The forestry model is inappropriate to an urban/wildland interface where residential structures with inhabitants close together add fuel and higher risk to the situation.  Click here to read the November 27, 2019 letter.

Click here to read OFSC recommendations for scoping of the Environmental Review  of the plan.

Click here to review the plan  https://oaklandvegmanagement.org/#documents.  

The Oakland Fire Department manages vegetation on CITY-OWNED property in the Oakland hills to reduce the risk of devastating wildfires. Most of the Oakland the hills fall within the state’s High or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones as designated by Cal-Fire. The draft Vegetation Management Plan will serve as the scope for the Environmental Impact Review (EIR), so your comments are critical so that they can be incorporated into the specifications for the EIR. A video, power point presentation and several fact sheets are available at https://oaklandvegmanagement.org/#documents.

Sign up to receive project updates by signing up on the website to receive project notifications by email.contact us/VegManagement.

Website:   www.oaklandnet.com/VegManagement
MAIL: 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Suite 3354, Oakland, CA 94612, ATTN: Oakland Vegetation Management Plan
Twitter or Facebook.

OFSC Launches Oakland CP&R– Disaster Preparedness and Response workshops across the Oakland Hills

The Oakland Community Preparedness and Readiness Program (OCP&R) workshops are intended to educate and assist Hill’s residents, businesses and other stakeholders on:

  • creating organized neighborhoods
  • establishing Firewise USA certified neighborhoods that could improve insurability
  • receiving CORE and Neighborhood Watch training and certification
  • understanding evacuation procedures, best practices and potential routes
  • establishing local emergency supplies and shelters
  • establishing and practicing emergency radio communications

Click here for details

Click here for the latest progress report
Click here for the Q3 2019 progress report

To join the small team planning these efforts, or for additional information, please contact us at Doug Mosher, OCPR Program Manager.

Ways to prepare for Public Safety Power Outages and Defensible Space

New Study reveals Targeted Outreach and Strict Enforcement Improves Compliance with Local Inspections for Wildfire Prevention

Our 2019 Defensible Space Study found that wildfire defensible space inspection programs achieving high compliance rates share five key characteristics:

  1. Strict enforcement of compliance through eventual use of abatement authority to abate non-compliant properties;
  2. Cost recovery of abatement and associated administrative fees from property owners;
  3. Property owner outreach and education to achieve voluntary compliance;
  4. Pairing annual inspections with public complaints to help identify non-compliant properties; and
  5. Provision of complementary programs, such as chipping, when appropriate.

Click here for more details.

Recent California Fires Spur Wider Discussion: Ember Awareness

At a recent Northwestern California Community Wildfire Resiliency Gathering, representatives from Firesafe Councils and other groups learned that between 90% and 95% of homes destroyed in the recent Tubbs and Campfires were due to houses catching on fire from embers, not from   itself.  Defensible Space means more than just vegetation management.  Learn more here.

OFSC joined the Claremont Canyon Conservancy in an hour-long discussion and tour of Claremont Canyon on October 3 with 15 legislative analysts from Capitol Impact. We shared our thoughts on lessons learned from the 1991 Firestorm and suggested ways in which the State might produce legislation that would strengthen wildfire prevention for Local Resource Areas (LRAs) such as Oakland. Among our recommendations was the formation of a regional Wildfire Prevention District for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties that would provide standards, consistency and coordinated implementation of wildfire prevention efforts–for fire knows no city boundaries.  See our power point presentation here.

The Butte County “Camp Fire” – observations from the scene of California’s deadliest wildfire    The NFPA Xchange,  Michele Steinberg, January 28, 2019

A million California buildings face wildfire risk.’Extraordinary steps’ are  needed to protect them.  The Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2018

U.S. Forest Service ecologist says mega wildfires require more than suppression, urging 3-step solution, The Spokesman Review, October 28, 2018

Disaster Guide  San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 2018
The Social Costs of Living in Wildfire-Prone Areas  East Bay Express  August 21. 2018
Should development be extinguished on California’s fire-prone hills?    Reveal News,     July 3, 2018
After deadly Carr Fire, a question of how — and whether — to rebuild 1,000 homes  
San Francisco Chronicle  August 25 2018

Park Like Someone’s Life Depends on it

Whether high fire season or rainy winter,  first responders need to be able to respond to emergencies quickly. We remind residents who live on narrow streets to “Park Like Someone’s Life Depends on it”.  Use your garage or driveway. If you cannot, then park away from turns in the road and leave at least 14 feet so that first responders can pass.  http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/08/30/tempers-flare-over-oakland-hills-road-access-fire-danger-concerns/

Download a pdf of a handy flyer that neighbors can leave on the windshield of parked cars that do not provide sufficient clearance.  You can also call the Oakland Department of Transportation’s Parking Enforcement Unit at 510 238-3099 for enforcement support.