​​​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. 


The first thing to do is sign up for Watch Duty so you have real time alerts and notifications of near by fires and their status. Do it now!!!!

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.   A good overview is Living with Wildfire. The Fire Safe Councils can provide a lot of good guidance in this area.  See also Be Prepared for a Wildland Fire.

When an active fire approaches

Local fire agencies use the Genasys Protect system (formerly Zone Haven) 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. 

  1. If a fire is driven by wind, and becomes extremely hot, moving through the crowns of trees and generating a lot of embers, the fire can move very quickly, covering a football field every minute or two. This is extremely dangerous, and you have to evacuate immediately. You may have very little warning. This is why neighborhood lookouts and staying in touch during fire season via the neighborhood email and text lists is important.  If such a fast moving fire comes, it's important to be prepared to evacuate fast. 
  2. If a fire is moving slowly, the fire may approach you over a period of days. You will need to work with neighbors monitoring the fire, watching official reports. A key decision to make is if you will really evacuate, or stay. The fire departments are very cautious and want to evacuate a lot of people so they are safe and they don't have to worry about them anymore, especially when they are already overstretched and want to avoid new problems.   At the same time, we know from the CZU fire that many neighborhoods saved their homes by actively defending them, especially since at the critical time CalFire in fact lacked the resources to have a meaningful presence in their neighborhood.  A key thing is to decide early on if you want to stay or evacuate. Changing your mind about this at the last minute is known to be much more dangerous than leaving early or staying.  If you decide to stay, you should do this on the basis of having a well thought out plan, worked out in advance with your neighbors. You have to take into account your topography, fire behavior, you and your neighbors' equipment and expertise. Keep in mind that fire behavior can change quickly. If you have the equipment, knowledge, and a game plan, staying can be a viable alternative.  BUT KEEP IN MIND MOST PEOPLE WILL NOT MEET THESE REQUIREMENTS.  Here the roles of the neighborhood coordinators and the neighborhood mailing lists are crucial to come up with reasonable decisions for all or part of a neighborhood. This all said, don't become someone who needs a rescue!
  3. In case of doubt do what the fire department says.

​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