RED FLAG WARNING for Alameda County from 10-28-2023 at 05:00 AM until 10-29-2023 at 05:00 PM. Gusty offshore winds & dry conditions.
Oakland Firesafe Council

Wildfire Safety Programs

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise USA® program teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action to help make their community more firesafe.

The Oakland Firesafe Council is encouraging Oakland neighborhood groups to join the growing network of more than 1,500 Firewise USA® sites from across the nation by taking ownership in preparing and protecting their homes and communities against the threat of wildfire. Read more about Firewise USA® in our OFSC Guide #12.

WHY GET FIREWISE RECOGNIZED?

  • Greatly reduces your wildfire risk
  • Makes your home more resilient should a wildfire strike
  • Makes our neighborhoods wildfire resistant
  • May help obtain/retain homeowner’s insurance
  • Some insurance companies give a discount

4 EASY STEPS:

  • ORGANIZE: form small committee
  • PLAN: perform assessment and create action plan
  • DO: complete those actions
  • SHARE: celebrate your success and report efforts back to Firewise USA®

READ ABOUT OAKLAND’S FIREWISE RECOGNIZED SITES

  1. Klamath-Brunell
  2. C.A.B.S.
  3. Skyline Blvd.
  4. Kaiser School Neighborhood Fire Break (in Hiller Highlands)
  5. Estates Fountain

LEARN MORE IN OUR TOWN HALL RECORDING

View this recording of OFSC’s town hall, “Know the Way to Firewise USA®”, to learn more.

Refer to this PDF of Macy M. Cornell’s presentation for clickable links.

HOW TO GET STARTED

A Firewise USA® representative from the Firesafe Council can answer your questions and help you get started. Reach out to us for more information by filling out our Contact Us form.

Contact your Divisional Area Liaison – Malcolm Kennedy at 530-360-5291 or via email: malcolm.kennedy@fire.ca.gov 

Creating defensible space and following fire-smart landscaping principles can greatly improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire (see our Guide Defensible Space & Fire-Smart Landscaping). The overall approach is aimed at the reduction and separation of combustibles in order to protect structures from three types of ignitions: embers, radiant heat, and direct flames.

For the best protection against wildfire, fire-smart landscaping should be performed in conjunction with home hardening measures (see our Guide Home Hardening for Wildfire).


What is Firescaping?

Firescaping is landscaping to reduce fire hazard, and includes the use of proper plant selection, placement and maintenance around homes and surroundings to reduce their vulnerability to wildfire. Firescaping incorporates design principles to harden your home against wildfire while also accomplishing other traditional landscaping goals such as privacy, shade, screening and beautification.

A carefully Firescaped design will

  • reduce the chance of ignition
  • lower a fire’s intensity to help your home survive
  • slow the spread of fire and give you more time to safely escape if necessary

In addition to reducing fire hazard, a fire-smart yard can conserve water, encourage pollinators/wildlife, increase property value, and beautify your home and surroundings.


Where to Start?

Firescaping does not require that you spend a lot of money or remove all of your existing plants. Start with what is already in place and make strategic modifications according to recommended fire-smart principles. Remember that planning, placement, and maintenance are key.

Panel from Fire Resistant Demo Garden at Gateway, Oakland

The overall approach is aimed at the reduction and separation of combustibles, especially focusing on Zone 0 (the area 0-5′ around structures). For example,

  • Use non-flammable hardscaping such as rocks and bricks for walls and paths
  • Create open areas to provide a buffer to help prevent flames from spreading
  • Understand that fire-smart plant selection is influenced by multiple factors (see next section)
  • maintain, maintain, maintain

LOOKING FOR SOME HELP? check out our “Find a Fire-Smart Contractor” below


Plant Smart

There is no such thing as a fireproof plant or tree – any vegetation can burn when exposed to high enough temperatures and flames, especially if it is allowed to dry out. A plant’s ability to resist fire is strongly influenced by arrangement, spacing, density and dryness of the vegetation, as well as the type of plant.

Panel from Fire Resistant Demo Garden at Gateway, Oakland

Still, many plants and trees are much more fire-resistant than others and there are “fire-smarter” options. Start with these references to help you make selections appropriate for your situation:


Firescaping Services & Tools

Interested in Firescaping and hardening your home against wildfire, but unsure of where to start?  Need help finding a contractor that is knowledgable about Fire-Smart landscaping and management practices?  Oakland Firesafe Council offers a listing of landscapers, contractors, and other service providers to help Oakland residents protect their homes against wildfire.


Additional Firescaping Resources & Info

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Red Flag Warning and Fire Weather Watch periods are times to be extremely cautious and alert!

A Red Flag Warning (RFW) is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when predicted weather conditions support extreme wildfire danger within the next 24 hours. Strong winds, low humidity, dry vegetation and potential lightning are the main factors. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert as a single spark can cause a major wildfire.

A Fire Weather Watch (FWW) is issued up to 72 hours before the above conditions are expected to occur. A FWW may turn into a RFW (see below).

View the National Weather Service’s Bay Area page for local RFW and FWW notices and weather alerts and information.

How Will I Know When an RFW Has Been Issued?

Local radio, TV and weather stations should broadcast when a Red Flag Warning is in effect, and an AC Alert may be sent out. RFWs should also be posted on the NWS X (Twitter) account @NWSBayArea and the OFD X account @OaklandFireCA, as well as on social media such as Nextdoor. Fire Stations will fly a red flag outside. Civilian emergency radio organizations may also monitor and report at this time, including the GENOAK 2-way radio network. Learn about these and other ways of being notified.

An RFW Has Been Issued. What Should I Do Now?

Take all Red Flag Warnings very seriously!

Sometimes the weather forecast isn’t accurate, but most often it is. Unfortunately, multiple RFWs during fire season can lead to “alert fatigue“.

Don’t ignore an RFW because the last one didn’t (thankfully) result in a wildfire. The next one very well could.

LEAVE EARLY if you ever feel unsafe. When in doubt, get out!

DURING a Red Flag Warning

  • Review your evacuation plan and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice
  • If feasible, consider going to a pre-planned, safer location until the RFW has been lifted
  • Know your Genasys Protect (Zonehaven) evacuation Zone
  • Verify that your Go-Bag is packed and accessible, review your evacuation checklist
  • If you have a vehicle, make sure that it is ready to go with a full tank of gas (or full charge), parked outside (not in garage), and pointed facing the street
  • Ensure your cell phone is charged, on and with you at all times, charge back-up batteries
  • Remain alert, monitor conditions outside and listen for AC Alerts and other notifications
  • Clear anything highly combustible outside your home, especially within 5’ of the structure
  • Don’t smoke or use power tools, grills or any potential source of heat or spark outside
  • City and/or Regional Parks may be closed – if so, do not enter these parks
  • Prepare for possible Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) and understand Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS)

Red Flag Warnings and 5 Minute Evacuation Plans PSAs

Do You Have a Five Minute Plan?
Tienes un de Evacuación Plan de 5 Minutos?

“Evacuation orders mean that you have to leave right away. During a Red Flag Warning you should be ready to leave your house in five minutes. When you have to evacuate, five minutes can make all the difference.” ~ California Fire Foundation

What is Red Flag Warning vs Fire Weather Watch?

CAL FIRE video from 2020

RED FLAG WARNING
Strong winds, low relative humidity, dry vegetation and the possibility of dry lightning strikes expected to occur or are occurring within the next 24 hours and that may result in extreme fire behavior. The highest alert!

FIRE WEATHER WATCH
Issued up to 72 hours before the above conditions are expected to occur. Be prepared for this to turn into a Red Flag Warning.

Additional

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What’s the big deal about embers?

Ember Storm Demonstration

Burning embers and firebrands cause the most house fires during a wildfire or firestorm.

Flying embers that land on any combustible material on, around or in your home can start a fire.

But you don’t live in a “high risk zone” for wildfire?

 An Animated Reminder on Ember Danger

Embers can fly a mile or more and potentially ignite homes far from a main wildfire.

Rain gutters could offer a bed of fuel for rogue embers. Embers could get into open areas such as vents and ignite combustibles inside your home. Embers landing on roofs or near the foundation can start burns there, too.

So, what can be done?

Ember Awareness Zones – University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

Don’t give embers a chance!

Leave nothing for insidious embers to ignite and feed on.

The area 5 feet around your home is especially key to keep clear of readily combustible materials.

  • Remove dried out or dead vegetation
  • Rake up leaves, pine needles, etc
  • Avoid fine wood mulch, instead spread gravel or decomposed granite, or use bricks or pavers.
  • Don’t allow vegetation to grow right next to the siding, especially if it is wood or vinyl. Small, short and well-watered plants or bushes may be ok, just be sure to maintain them.

Don’t offer embers a buffet!

We can’t control weather. We can’t control topography. But we can control the amount of combustible fuels available to hungry embers.

Additional

MONITORING

ALERTCalifornia Local Live Feed Cameras

Additional reference: Citizen’s Guide to Fire Suppression Monitoring

REPORTING

  • If you see flames/wildfire or rising smoke, immediately call 911 or Oakland Fire Dept direct at (510) 444-1616
  • To report fire within an East Bay Regional Park, call EBRPD Fire/Police Dispatch at (510) 881-1833
  • Report as much of the following information as you can (use your best estimates) to the operator/dispatcher, plus any additional information they request:
    ·  
    • your location and the approximate location of the wildfire or rising smoke
    • approximate size of the fire in square feet or acres (1 football field equals about 1 acre)
    • direction(s) the fire is moving in
    • exposures – are any persons, animals or buildings threatened?
    • hazards – e.g., electrical wires down, hazardous materials present, etc.
    • fuel type – grass, brush, trees, buildings
    • wind – approximate speed and direction
    • slope – flat, moderate, steep
    • rate of spread – slow, moderate, rapid
  • Do not put yourself into any danger and make sure that you know your escape/evacuation routes away from the fire

Are you parking safely for yourself, neighbors and first responders?

DID YOU KNOW that a fire engine needs a road width of 20 FEET* to assure access in an emergency?

Many streets in our area aren’t 20 feet wide, so when you’re parking be sure to leave room for emergency vehicles.  It could be YOUR life at stake. 

* From CA Fire Code 503.2.1:
“Fire apparatus access roads shall have an unobstructed width of not less than 20 feet (6096 mm), exclusive of shoulders, except for approved security gates in accordance with Section 503.6, and an unobstructed vertical clearance of not less than 13 feet 6 inches.”

Park Like Your Life Depends on It


NEED MORE CONVINCING?

Take a look at this home video by Janice Gatlin and imagine YOUR family is waiting while the fire engines thread the needle through parked cars. 


DANGEROUSLY PARKED CAR?

Print this NOTICE to leave on the windshield (there are 2 per page).

THANKING the Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association for initially creating this program

A fire hydrant covered by vegetation, or half-buried in leaves and soil, or missing its blue Bott’s Dot street markers, can be difficult for firefighters to locate in an emergency, when seconds count.

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Report to OAK311

CHECK FIRE HYDRANTS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

  • Clear around hydrants so that they are visible from the street.
  • Report to OAK 311 if a hydrant appears to be damaged, leaking, etc. (choose “Other City Services” as the category).
  • Verify that at least one blue Bott’s Dot is affixed in the centerline of the street adjacent to the hydrant. Report to OAK 311 if it is missing (choose “Other City Services” as the category). 
  • Perform these checks at least a couple times a year.

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • Be safe! Place safety cones in the street to warn motorists, wear a reflective vest and have an assistant to alert you for vehicles.
  • Use only hand tools to clear around hydrants. Be careful not to cause sparks!
  • DO NOT paint over or alter the color of the hydrant–the caps are color coded and the white body is uniform and recognized by firefighters, and easier to see at night.
Photo/Anaheim Fire & Rescue

Parking in front of or within 15 feet of a hydrant carries a $100 fine per CA State Vehicle Code 22514

A LITTLE MORE ON HYDRANTS

  • EBMUD maintains hydrants and OFD/311 reports issues to them to fix
  • Fire engines/trucks do have electronic maps to help geolocate hydrants
  • Hydrant top caps that are blue, green or white signify a good flow rate is available. A hydrant with an orange or red cap signifies a lower flow rate; contact your local Fire Station for more information.
  • Hydrant side outlet caps that are green or white signify high pressure is available. Orange side outlet caps signify normal pressure and red needs to be pumped.
  • Fire hydrants are not to be covered by signs, billboards, posters or any other notice per Oakland City Ordinance 5.06.020
  • A little local hydrant history
  • Don’t park in front of fire hydrants or THIS could happen (see photo)

GENOAK is a community-to-community emergency 2-way radio communications network for Oakland and nearby areas.

In the event of a large-scale emergency, individuals and community/CERT groups may need to depend on information and assistance from other nearby communities. Cellular, Internet and landline phone communications may be overloaded or disrupted at this time and GENOAK can provide an alternate means to communicate.

Learn how to participate in GENOAK by following these easy steps.

Oakland Firesafe Council’s town hall series covers topics related to disaster readiness, focusing on practical knowledge to help you to make good judgments and to take actionable steps towards emergency preparedness.

Oakland Hills Vegetation Inspections 2023

Adam Ball, Fire Inspection Supervisor with Oakland’s Vegetation Management Unit, explains the process for the annual wildfire vegetation inspections for 2023 that take place in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones in Oakland, California, starting in early June.

SERIES 2 (2022) – “Savvy & Prepared Communities”: this 4-part virtual town hall series (January through May 2022) is focused on working together and preparing as a community. For session topics and schedule, see EVENTS page. Recordings of sessions will be posted here when they come available.

SESSION 1: Whatever the Weather

SESSION 2: Know the Way to Firewise USA® , Presentation PDF

SESSION 3: Reducing Fire Risks As A Community

SESSION 4: If You Gotta Go

SERIES 1 (2021) – The “Savvy Homeowner/Renter in Our Disaster-Prone Area”: this 5-part virtual town hall series featured Oakland City staff and other experts providing in-depth information on how residents can protect their loved ones and property and be more resilient following a disaster.

SESSION 1: The City of Oakland Prepares for the 2021 Fire Season

SESSION 2: Remember the Ember – Hardening Your Home Against Wildfire

SESSION 3: All About Defensible Space

SESSION 4: Not a Matter of If, But When–Earthquake Preparedness

SESSION 5: Insurance Matters