The Berkeley Fire Department, city of Oakland, East Bay Regional Park District and UC Berkeley will work together to make use of a $12.75 million investment in fire safety unveiled Thursday by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Interim Berkeley Fire Chief Abraham Roman.
With the funds from Measure FF, the city plans to expand vegetation clearing efforts, install a new evacuation warning system and purchase additional emergency vehicles. In addition, it will practice neighborhood evacuation drills, develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan and construct larger training facilities, according to a city press release.
Arreguín added that funds will also go toward hiring firefighters focused on wildfire safety, conducting educational campaigns and developing a new outdoor warning system, which will be implemented later this year.
In the press release, Arreguín noted that the investment comes with the incoming 30th anniversary of the 1991 Tunnel Fire and the threat of climate change-induced wildfires. He encouraged residents to make an evacuation plan, prepare a go-bag and be ready to evacuate when necessary.
“As we head into what experts predict will be a dire fire wildfire season, I am working to ensure the Berkeley Fire Department has the necessary resources to protect our community,” Arreguín said in the press release. “Furthermore, I am committed to collaborating with local neighborhoods and regional partners to create a collaborative regional approach to fire safety.”
UCPD shares the community’s concerns about the high fire danger along Grizzly Peak Boulevard, UCPD spokesperson Lt. Sabrina Reich said in an email. According to Reich, campus increased efforts in response to bonfires and fireworks starting last year.
Reich added that campus, through vegetation management, has protected evacuation routes on Centennial Drive and Claremont Avenue. She noted that student community service officers regularly patrol the Berkeley Hills and Claremont Canyon Fire Trails to remove vegetation.
Arreguín said in an email that Berkeley has been prioritizing improving coordination among jurisdictions and vegetation management for the past couple of years. He noted that a collaborative effort was needed to develop the North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break two years ago, clearing wildfire fuels.
According to Reich, UCPD has increased patrols of Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Centennial Drive. She said UCPD coordinated the closure of the road due to the extreme fire danger on the Fourth of July, and there were no reported fire incidents that day.
Residents should make sure their property is clear of fire fuels, Arreguín added. He noted that residents should memorize their zone to increase preparedness for emergencies following Alameda County’s launch of Zonehaven, a neighborhood emergency alert system.
Reich added that the public should contact UCPD at 510-642-6760, Oakland Police Department at 510-777-3333 and Berkeley Police Department at 510-981-5900 appropriately to report activities that may be putting the community at risk.