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June 2017: Palo Alto Foothills Community
Fire Season Update & County Wildland Training Drill
The City of Palo Alto provides emergency preparedness, community risk reduction, and emergency response to the areas of the Foothills community along Page Mill Road from the Highway 280 interchange to Skyline Boulevard. This multi-faceted approach is designed to reduce the community’s risk and provide an effective response force capable of extinguishing wildland fires.
The Palo Alto Fire Department (PAFD), Office of Emergency Services (OES), and the Community Services Department Open Space Rangers (CSD) have been busy this spring preparing the Foothills community for the upcoming Fire Season. This fact sheet provides an update of the community risk reduction and emergency response preparation activities.
Community Risk Reduction
The PAFD, OES, and CSD actively partner with the Midpeninsula FireSafe Council which is a non-profit organization composed of individuals, public and private agencies, and companies that share a common interest in preventing and reducing losses from wildfires. Risk reduction projects include evacuation route planning and clearance, grass mowing, wood chipping, and other fuel reduction treatments designed to minimize the impacts of fire hazards.
In preparation for each fire season, PAFD crews inspect the Foothills community on a nearly daily basis conducting annual home defensible space assessments, wildland training, and other risk reduction projects. Every home in the Foothills community is inspected for vegetation clearance and defensible space which in a wildland fire will help keep residents and homes safe.
This year, the PAFD is hosting the County’s Annual Wildland Training drill in the Foothills community from June 12 - 14. This three day region-wide drill will bring in dozens of fire crews from Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. These crews will practice structure protection tactics, participate in simulated emergency operations, area familiarization, and other risk reduction activities. We have been working with several of your neighbors in the FireSafe Council on this event. Expect to see a lot of fire apparatus in the Foothills community on June 12, 13, and 14.
During the upcoming Fire Season, July 1 to October 31, Fire Station 8 in Foothills Park will be open and staffed during Red Flag Fire Weather and extreme fire danger days. On the days Station 8 is open; it is staffed for 12-hours, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and can be extended due to fire weather conditions.
The PAFD operates two fire stations nearby that respond year-round to the Foothills community. Fire Station 2 (Hanover) and Fire Station 5 (Barron Park) cover the area with response times that meet the PAFD’s performance standards for the Foothills community. It is important to note that during the previous fire seasons the units assigned to Stations 2 and 5 had faster response times to calls in the Foothills community than the engine from Station 8.
In addition, the PAFD maintains Automatic Aid Agreements with the Santa Clara County Fire Department and the Woodside Fire District, who staff stations nearby and respond to calls in the Foothills community, no matter the jurisdiction.
In the event of a wildland fire, the Foothills community is protected by a region wide Mutual Aid Plan that brings significant resources from surrounding agencies including Cal Fire. These resources include:
Numerous fire engines, equipped for structure protection and wildland fire suppression
Handcrew firefighters who cut fuel breaks around fires
Airplanes and helicopters capable of dropping fire retardant and water
Chiefs to oversee and manage the incident
County-wide fire investigation team made up of fire investigators and police officers
The City of Palo Alto also staffs CSD Open Space Rangers in the area every day. The rangers operate patrol vehicles that have water and a pump and are designed to extinguish small fires. Open Space Rangers are often the first ones to arrive at emergencies in the Foothills.
An analysis of emergencies in the Foothills area shows there is less than one call per week, and the majority of incidents are for emergency medical services. One fire was dispatched during the 2015 season, a car fire that turned out to be steam from a radiator. For comparison, the PAFD handles nearly 9,000 calls per year.
Best practices in community risk reduction operate under a shared responsibility between individual residents, community groups such as the Midpeninsula FireSafe Council, and multiple City departments.
Please clear brush and vegetation around your homes to create defensible space. Adequate brush clearance around homes has been demonstrated time and again to be the single biggest factor for homes surviving a wildland fire. California Law and the City’s Municipal Code require property owners and/or occupants to create 100 feet of defensible space around homes and buildings. If you have not yet created defensible space around your homes, now is the time to do so. All work should be completed by late June. If we can be of any assistance, please let us know.
It is important that you take action now to prepare your family, property, and community for the summer fire season.