Berkeley Disaster and Fire Safety Commission introduces wildfire protection plan

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The Community Wildfire Protection Plan aims to identify major hazards that wildfires pose to Berkeley residents and set related goals.

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The Disaster and Fire Safety Commission met for the first time Wednesday to introduce a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, or CWPP, for the city of Berkeley.

During the second half of the meeting, consulting team leader Carol Rice, with team members Cheryl Miller and Esther Mandeno, presented the CWPP, which is overseen by the Berkeley Fire Department. The plan aims to identify and prioritize goals and projects to manage the hazards and risks posed by wildfires and better prepare the community.

“We’re going to share with you why a community protection plan is important,” Rice said at the meeting. “We will review the steps involved to develop the Community Wildfire Protection Plan and (its) schedule so that you know what to expect.”

The presentation detailed a three-step process involving community members, the fire department, the commission and the Berkeley City Council.

The first phase is engagement — gathering interested parties — while the second phase, assessment, concerns existing conditions, risk assessment, recommendations and priorities. The plan also outlines a foundation for the compilation of projects intended to reduce wildfire risks. The third phase finalizes an action plan and discusses project funding strategies.

“At the end of the process, we will hopefully come to a common understanding of existing conditions through both a community base map and a risk assessment,” Rice said during the meeting. “We will identify the potential for fire, when to protect and how to reduce risk. The city can use this information to identify and prioritize areas based on determined levels of risk.”

The plan will also include a community base map to showcase data such as fire hazard severity zones and opportunities to find information regarding existing conditions.

Funding for the plan is provided through Measure FF, a parcel tax per square foot on real property improvements approved by Berkeley voters in 2020.

During public comment later in the meeting, concerns were raised regarding the potential fire hazard of eucalyptus trees surrounding residential homes.

“The CWPP should focus on this as far and away the single most important fire risk facing the city,” said Berkeley Hillside Fire Safety Group President Henry DeNero during the meeting.

DeNero also alleged the group requested the city to remove the trees in the past and now looks forward to applying the CWPP to continue its work.

The next Disaster and Fire Safety Commission meeting will be held on Sept. 28.

Contact Maya Jimenez at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @mlj____.