May 31 Event Planned to Address Wildfire Prevention, Preparation and History


    Is Lamorinda prepared for fire?  
    Realizing the potential for a devastating fire here, Lamorinda Village is sponsoring All About Wildfires, an event aimed at educating and protecting local residents.
    Featured speakers are Dennis Rein, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD), and Jerry Kent, retired assistant general manager of operations for the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD).
    “A robust fuel crop and brush growth are expected this spring,” says Rein. “These fuel issues may contribute to another active fire season this year.”
    Rein said he will discuss ways MOFD is working to alleviate the possibility of a wildfire causing destruction such as has occurred in other areas of California. Topics will include external and internal fuels mitigation projects, wildfire preplanning, evacuation planning and community outreach and education.”
    Rein also will give an update on a project that is being considered by Cal Fire, the North Orinda Fuel Break. If approved, the project would allow work to begin on approximately 14 miles of shaded fuel break from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) near the top of Eagle’s Nest Trail down Wildcat Canyon Road to Bear Creek Road and along the Lafayette Ridge to Pleasant Hill Road. Shaded fuel breaks are designed to reduce the risk of wildfires entering communities by removing understory and ground fuels.
Having experience as a fire fighter and 30 years overseeing the park district fire-related vegetation management effort, Kent also has served as historian. He plans to bring people up to date on fires in the Orinda area, and their effects.
    “In the East Bay Hills, wildland fire has been an important part of the environment since the last Ice Age. More recently, urban development in the 19th and 20th centuries created an urban interface zone where fire could easily spread from wildland areas into cities,” Kent says.
    Adds MOFD Chief Dave Winnacker, “Modern firefighting efforts over the last century have saved lives and homes but eliminated the region’s natural fire cycle, leaving behind a thicket of nonnative trees and brush. A fire driven by dry Diablo winds could race from the watershed surrounding San Pablo and Briones reservoirs into Orinda, Lafayette and Moraga – and beyond. Large portions of MOFD’s jurisdiction lie within recognized high and very high Wildfire Hazard Severity Zones. Realizing this fact, MOFD is committed to a sustained, multidisciplinary effort to protect our communities,”
    Lamorinda Village Membership Director Andy Amstutz said the event is being held in response to concern following the loss of lives and homes in Santa Rosa and Paradise (Butte County). Because many Orindans no longer drive there is a special need for evacuation planning, a topic that also will be discussed along with a Community Warning System, he said.
    “One of our values is that community members feel safe in their own homes as they age. This includes paying attention to the risk of wildfires,” Amstutz says. “All residents need to know how to prepare and what to do if/when a real wildfire threatens our community. This is why our Village is sponsoring this event.”
    The event takes place May 31 at 1:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary of the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, 49 Knox Drive, Lafayette. 

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