News

Preparing for 2021 Fire Season

5/1/2021

Although the relatively dry winter is typically a prelude to a potentially dangerous fire season in the East Bay Regional Park District, there is some good news.

The SCU Lightning Complex Fire of 2020, which included five regional parks, burned less intensely in many areas due to fire-savvy land management practices, including cattle grazing and trail and fire road vegetation maintenance.

According to Park District ecologists and biologists, as a result, wildlife had time to burrow or escape to safer areas, and seedlings survived for future regrowth. So the wildlands are recovering more quickly than
expected.

The Park District has established a Post Fire Monitoring Task Force within its Stewardship Department to track the recovery of vegetation and wildlife and to help coordinate management needs for the burned areas.

When wildfire does strike, Park District Fire Chief Aileen Theile leads a department of 16 full-time firefighters and some 34 on-call staff – District employees with other primary occupations, but who are also fully trained firefighters available when
needed.

An important component of the fire department is an 11-member fuels reduction crew. This crew works throughout the year to enhance fire safety by clearing brush away from trails, trimming trees to remove ladder fuels, and piling the resulting
vegetation for disposal by burning “strategically and where appropriate.”

Park District Fire headquarters are at Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley. Seven other stations throughout the District are staff ed as circumstances demand. All have engines and other equipment in place.

A dispatch center operates 24 hours per day in support of the District’s firefighters and police. During a fire, the District’s two police helicopters serve as observation platforms to determine fire location and speed, and best access for ground crews. The helicopters are equipped with Bambi buckets to fight fire from above with 125-gallon water drops.

There are major ways in which the public can help the District reduce fire hazards. It should be noted that smoking, including vaping, is not permitted in the regional parks or regional trails. And during any emergency, park visitors need to cooperate with all instructions from firefighters, police, or park rangers.

What the East Bay Regional Park District does:
• Maintains a professional fire department with more than 50 fulltime and on-call firefighters, eight fire stations, and special wildland firefighting equipment.
• Clears heavy brush and thins dense forests.
• Uses grazing cattle, sheep, and goats to reduce the open space fuel load.
• Removes hazardous trees.
• Partners with more than 25 local and state agencies, including CAL FIRE and EBMUD.
• Provides mutual aid to other public agencies, including use of Park District helicopters.

Learn more about Fire Safety and Prevention.


Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor
510-544-2217

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