Excessive Heat Warning prompts closure of East Bay open spaces, puts North Bay firefighters on alert

ByLena Howland, Cornell Barnard via KGO logo
Friday, September 2, 2022
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Both the city of Walnut Creek and the city of Concord are shutting down their open spaces temporarily because of the excessive heat warning.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- Both the city of Walnut Creek and the city of Concord are shutting down their open spaces temporarily because of the Excessive Heat Warning.

LIVE: Track real-time temperatures amid Bay Area heat wave

The closures start Thursday morning and will go through the Labor Day holiday weekend.

On the heels of Labor Day weekend, those rolling hills overlooking the East Bay, at Lime Ridge Open Space, seemed almost too good to be true for Fairfield resident Scott Conley.

"I'm just on my mountain bike, trying to beat the heat and get in before it gets too hot," Conley said.

He got in his early morning bike ride just in time, before the city of Walnut Creek shut down Lime Ridge, Shell Ridges, Acalanes Ridge and more.

"When we put people in that environment, we are likely to get more fire starts, and if we do get a fire start in a wildland area, we want our resources fighting fire, not necessarily doing those rescues of the public that are in that environment," Deputy Fire Chief Aaron McAlister of the Contra Costa County Fire Department said.

RELATED: Flex Alert issued in California as parts of state could see 8 consecutive days of triple-digit heat

The city of Walnut Creek and the city of Concord says they made this decision based purely on the recommendation from Contra Costa Fire.

McAlister says this closure isn't necessarily because of fire danger, but moreso to prevent hard-to-get-to 911 calls from happening deeper into city open spaces.

"We know from experience that we're going to see injuries and heat-related emergencies and when those emergencies occur a couple of miles off the road, down a dirt trail, it takes firefighters and resources to respond to those emergencies," he said. "In this heat condition, we can prevent those types of emergencies."

An issue the regulars on the trailhead, know all too well.

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"The thing is, is that heat and bicycles and humans don't mix that good," Jim Utterback, a Concord resident, said. "I think this is a great decision, and also a lot of the emergencies don't even happen that deep in. We have people who come out and they don't understand just how critical it is to stay hydrated and be safe on the trails and for the holiday weekend, sometimes emergencies happen close to the trailhead."

But others believe this is taking the heat wave a step too far.

"I understand where they're coming from but I think people should, they're aware enough, that it's going to be hot this weekend and stay hydrated and either go early or late and know how your body feels," Conley said.

RELATED: California lawmakers trying to modernize electric grid as flex alerts persist

All of these open spaces will stay closed through Labor Day and will reopen on Tuesday.

As of last check, all open spaces in the East Bay Regional Park District are staying open, despite the recommendation from Contra Costa County Fire officials.

North Bay

In the North Bay, the extreme heat has people getting ready to sizzle and it's putting firefighters on alert. They're deploying new technology to better detect fire weather across the region.

"The remote automated weather station can track wind speed to fuel temps, air temperatures," said Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.

Firefighters are deploying a new state-of-the-art remote weather station, ahead of the extreme heat capable of giving real-time fire weather information from the hills to the valley.

The device has been installed in the Fountain Grove neighborhood, scene of the 2017 Tubbs Fire.

"Granted, we're not expecting winds but when temps are that high and humidity is so low, this tool can transmit real-time information to see what our potential is, how dry is it," Lowenthal added.

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