The rural and wooded nature of our community is vulnerable to Wildland Fire, especially in drought conditions. Given climate change, wildfire has become the number one disaster risk for our area. Whereas fire used to be a more theoretical risk in our area, we have now twice had fires encroach on the area, and during the CZU Lightning fire in 2020 the entire area was evacuated. Therefore, it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to prepare your family in the event that a rapid evacuation becomes necessary. Steps taken to reduce the potential for fire ignition on and around your home and work to provide a defensible space around your home may make the difference between a heap of ashes and an undamaged home following a wildland fire.
Neighborhood and Regional Preparation
Long before there is a fire, it's important to work on maintaining our vegetation and roads. Building and maintaining shaded fire breaks along key roads, both public and private, is crucial. These fire breaks help slow the spread of a fire long enough to allow fire fighters to build active defensive measures. They also provide for safe evacuation routes. These projects are managed by the Fire Safe Councils (San Mateo Fire Safe Council and South Skyline Fire Safe Council) who obtain grants from the state to pay for them, and then work with CalTrans and private land owners. In addition, our largest neighbor, the Midpeninsula Regional Openspace District, manages its own projects on its land via grants.
The role of our neighborhoods is to actively interface with the Fire Safe councils and MidPen to ensure that our needs are understood and being met. We as residents are the people who really know what's going in our own neighborhoods, and it's a crucial task for Neighborhood Coordinators to make sure that the neighborhood understands the projects proposed, forms a clear opinion on them, and then to work with the appropriate partners on the design and implementation.
Preparing Your House.
It's also crucial to prepare your home and personal property for fires. The Fire Safe Councils can provide a lot of good guidance in this area. See Be Prepared for a Wildland Fire.
When an active fire approaches
Local fire agencies use the Zone Haven system to assign all of us to an evacuation zone. If a fire approaches, we will get alerts via the County Alerting tools (SMC Alert etc) for evacuation warnings or orders by zone. It's crucial you know what zone you are in, they have a number and a name; the name can be a bit idiosyncratic. You will get a warning before an evacuation, and when it's over, the evacuation order will be lifted before the warning. These always are by zone. It's really important to be ready to evacuate - having your gobag, and have a clear plan everyone in the family knows on how to evacuate, what to take, so you can all leave fast. Learn what to do when a fire threatens your home.
If a fire breaks out in the area, one of two things can happen.
To help you make good decisions, there are a lot of useful sources of information on wildfires you can monitor in real time.
Wildland Fire Preparedness and Response