City of Berkeley holds drill to prepare residents for wildfires

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The city of Berkeley held wildfire drills Sunday to increase and evaluate citywide preparedness in the case of a fire hazard.

The drills — which took place on the Berkeley-Contra Costa County border, Spruce Street, Codornices Park and the UC Berkeley campus, according to a KRON 4 article — were used to gauge how well local emergency response agencies could notify residents, order an evacuation and control traffic flow away from a fire, according to Berkeley Fire Department Assistant Chief Keith May.

The drill was an in-depth simulation of a fire in the Berkeley Hills on a day with a “red flag warning” in effect. The warning indicates that “warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.

May stressed in an email that the main ways Berkeley residents can prepare for dangers such as wildfires are to “prepare, practice and be aware.”

He listed several examples in the email, such as signing up for AC Alert, a service that can call residents with emergency information and evacuation routes, and tuning in to 1610 AM, Berkeley’s emergency radio station.

Additionally, having an emergency “go bag” packed, knowing evacuation routes both on foot and by car and using resources, such as the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, to plan safe routes for families and neighbors are other good ways to be prepared in case of an emergency, May said in the email.

The threat of fires in California has become a more pressing issue in recent years; the term “fire season” is now being phased out, as “the wildfire threat is a year-long problem,” according to May in the email.

However, even a year-round problem can have solutions. Increasing awareness and public messaging are key, as well as knowing the weather conditions and “avoiding anything that could cause a spark,” May said in the email.

Marlena Tavernier-Fine is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarlenaTF_DC.