Fire crews on patrol for wildfire hazards


In the Oakland Hills, and elsewhere, they went door-to-door inspecting hundreds of residences for excess vegetation that might burn. Dead ivy atop a wall next to a house is just one example. Jamie Knudsen with the Oakland Fire Department (OFD) found it less than 100 feet from Fire Station 7.

"It acts as a fuel and a ladder that takes any sort of fire right into the building," said Knudsen. "That's why it all has to be removed."

On this day when the degree of fire danger officially graduated from moderate to high, the OFD made a show of force in streets and on mountain roads. This is no time or place for illegal fireworks.

"We have actually rolled up on fires," said Captain David Hines who has lived through the worst of them. When the Oakland Hills burned in 1991, he watched and worked, feeling almost powerless as the homes that used to be there popped like firecrackers in the heat.

"I saw trees, homes, other vegetation exploding into flame. Actually, instantaneously, things that were not burning, explosively burning," said Hines. "When I was in the firestorm, it was a situation I had never seen before. Walls of flame. More houses on fire than were not on fire. An insurmountable situation, and the thoughts came to mind, people will die today."

Twenty-five people did die that day. All the more reason for going door-to-door, even on a Fourth of July holiday, especially on a Fourth of July holiday.

"You really have to respect the potential that is here for fire," said Hines.

Something to think about on a day when people are going to be putting fireworks up in the air, and not worrying so much about where they land.

Regulations require at least 10 feet between trees and houses. For a house on an upslope they're asking for 30 feet clearance below, meaning 30 feet cut down to ground level.

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