Wildfires in Berkeley are still a big risk. A new public warning system aims to help

An eerie three-tone chime rang out over Berkeley at 12 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the sound echoing through the trees at Live Oak Park as city officials looked on.

“This is a test of the city of Berkeley’s outdoor warning system,” a disembodied voice said, followed by applause from a crowd that had gathered. “This is only a test.”

For an event commemorating the 100-year anniversary of a wildfire that destroyed much of North Berkeley, the “Fire Ready Fest” was a decidedly chipper affair. Children pranced through little hula hoops adorned with paper flames. Adults posed with a giant lion mascot dressed in a Cal Fire uniform. Families sat eating lunch in the park grass.

Although the event had the energy of a summer farmers market, the eerie chime was a fresh reminder that, even a century later, Berkeley residents face a unique set of wildfire risks.

“Wildfire has always been part of our history in Berkeley, and our landscape,” said Berkeley Fire Chief David Sprague. “We understand the significance of the threat that we face.”

According to the chief, Berkeley’s fire zone represents “a special kind of hazard.” The terrain is mountainous, the housing dense, the weather dry, and the landscape completely transformed. What was once a grassland is now a lush urban forest, covered in wood-frame and shingled houses.

All those factors contributed to the devastation of the Great Fire of 1923, which destroyed hundreds of homes and caused millions of dollars of damage. Without an effective warning system, some residents literally ran for their lives as flames descended on their homes.

In the past century, much has been done to mitigate those risks. The fire department has grown immensely. There are better public warning systems, a greater awareness of wildfire risk, and stronger initiatives to reduce fuels in urban parks.

This new warning system, officials said, is one more piece of that puzzle. Sprague said the system utilizes new technology and is connected to a backup solar generator so that it will function even if the city has lost power. In the event of a severe wildfire, a warning system can be the difference between lost property and lost lives.

Warning systems are becoming more popular. Officials in Paradise, roughly 90 miles north of Sacramento, recently began testing new sirens there nearly five years after a deadly inferno ripped through the town with little warning and killed more than 80 people.

In Lahaina, where a fire last month killed more than 95 people and destroyed the historic town, Maui County officials did not activate sirens that critics of the emergency response say could have warned far more people about the quick-moving blaze.

Sprague said Sunday that fire staff, and even warning systems, can only do so much, and that all residents of Berkeley need to be on the same page, working to mitigate fire threats on their own properties.


Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! Todays Chronic is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – todayschronic.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a Comment