Southern California

Berkeley Prepares for High Fire Danger

Although Alameda County is not part of the PG&E public safety shutoff area that will potentially be affected this week, it’s still issuing a red flag warning beginning Wednesday at noon. The warning for the East Bay hills will stay in effect until Thursday at 4 p.m.

Last week, Berkeley’s City Council passed a resolution to make fire safety a top priority.

Berkeley Fire Chief Dave Brannigan said he doesn’t want people to get complacent about fire safety. In Southern California’s Pacific Palisades Fire on Monday, multiple homes were saved due to the defensible space that had been created around them.

“When we get a red flag warning we create a matrix, so we can pinpoint what the weather in the Berkeley Hills will be like,” said Brannigan.

High winds and dry conditions are expected Wednesday, and Brannigan said he hopes homeowners are prepared.

“Defensible space is tricky in the East Bay hills because houses are built so close to each other,” Brannigan said. “It’s hard to meet the standard of 30 feet, that is what people strive for.”

Some homeowners in the Berkeley Hills have cleared away dry brush from their property, while others have not done so yet. Very few people know about the 1923 fire that destroyed 600 North Berkeley homes, but residents still remember the 1991 fire that engulfed 3,000 structures – and they know it can happen again.

“Sometimes I almost think we’re doomed, although thank goodness 36 years of living here and we haven’t been doomed yet,” said homeowner Robert Breuer. “But a lot of it is luck. There are way too many trees, people don’t want to trim the trees as much as they should.”

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