High fire danger alert for East Bay hills

June 11, 2010 5:46:36 PM PDT
Police and fire officials are cracking down on bonfires in Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland Hills this weekend because of the high fire danger. Other agencies are also taking the upcoming hot spell very seriously.

CAL FIRE has moved air tankers into Northern California in anticipation of increased fire danger this weekend. Residents of the East Bay hills have been put on fire danger alert because of increased temperatures, low humidity and high winds.

"If we burn, we burn," said Richard Gabor of Oakland, who has lived in the Oakland Hills for 37 years. His home survived the 1991 firestorm which claimed more than 3,300 homes. "I've done everything I can do. It's my neighbors that I'd love to inspire to get their backyards cleaned up. A lot of steep areas are really hard to clean."

Thick overgrowth near some homes on Grandview Terrace is what Gabor and Oakland firefighters would like to see cleared. The only resident home would not go on camera, but told us that she has been warned to clear the hillside and says she has plans to do that soon.

Oakland firefighters posted high fire danger signs Friday throughout the East Bay hills.

Battalion fire chief William Towner says that late rains have pushed back the fire season more than a month. Late rains, he says, have also left enough moisture in the hillside that if a fire broke out today, it would not burn as fast or as hot as it might this weekend or next week when hotter, drier conditions and high winds are expected throughout the Bay Area.

"The bad part of it is because of the abundant rain... here in the Oakland Hills we have some growth this year in excess of six foot."

That much dry grass, he says, is a serious fire danger now throughout the hills and Central Valley.

Dan Lewis is just moving into his home in the hills just above where the 1991 firestorm stopped. Increased fire danger does not concern him much.

"I think I'll be OK. I'm counting on no more fires," he said. "No special preparations. I have a fireproof roof... and I have a big safety zone around the house, so I think I'll be OK."

The Oakland Fire Department says partly because of budget cuts and because there is still moisture left in a lot of vegetation in the East Bay hills, they did not post any fire patrols Friday. They say that will change this weekend as temperatures begin to rise and humidity begins to drop


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