The statistics are sobering. Ten of the most destructive fires in California history have occurred in the past four years. “A year-round fire season is now the ‘new normal’ in California, and we must maintain constant vigilance,” says Aileen Theile, Fire Chief of the East Bay Regional Park District.
To prepare for wildfires and protect its neighbors, the Park District uses a multifaceted strategy, including reducing fire fuels, monitoring weather conditions, maintaining specialized equipment, providing staff training, collaborating with 25-plus local and regional fire agencies, and educating the public about wildfire protection activities and dangers.
Fire hazard reduction means thinning and removing dense brush, trees, and tall grasses, together referred to as the fuel load. Grazing animals also keep fire fuels in check. Park District land is grazed by 6,000 cattle, 1,500 sheep and 1,600 goats, spread out over about half of the District’s parks at any given time.
Remote weather stations located on Park District property provide data to predict regional fire behavior and track weather dangers that are communicated to the public.
Specialized wildland equipment helps with emergency response for the East Bay’s varied terrain and topography. This includes a variety of engines, water tenders, all-terrain vehicles, and two helicopters that can each drop between 144 and 210 gallons of water. In 2018, the Park District’s helicopters delivered 116 water buckets to fight 15 fires.
Wildland firefighting training for staff includes extinguishing wildland fires, structure fires, and vehicle fires. The Park District also provides fuel reduction training to park staff and external crews, who assist the Park District with the huge maintenance needs of its 122,000 acres.
For more information, visit East Bay Regional Park District Fire Department.
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor