A Recent Fire Presentation
On the evenings of November 14, 15, and 16 of November 2017, we were treated to an in-depth presentation of lessons learned during this year's catastrophic fire events in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our local event, now known as the Skeggs Fire, was about 50 acres of wildland fire located in Woodside. It was started by lightning strikes throughout the area. Most caused minor fires that were quickly put out. The Skeggs fire took 4 days to beat down. It started on September 11 in the evening of a day with little wind and not-too-low humidity. Due to its remote location, firefighters were not able to reach the actual fire until the next morning. Thanks to the preparedness of our local firefighters, teams from San Mateo Fire, and air support from Cal Fire, for a total of 85 firefighters working on the scene, it ONLY burned 50 acres. These people are definitely our heroes.
It did not go so well in Santa Rosa, where humidity was low, temperatures and winds were high. That fire devastated the area. In a region that had about 200 structures 30 years ago when the last major fire struck there, this time entire communities were destroyed in hours. We were shown aerial photos of the area, that interestingly showed hundreds of homes burned to the ground while the trees around them were still standing. We were told that this pattern clearly indicates that the homes burned FROM THE INSIDE. That means the home fires were started by embers landing on the roof, then burning through to the interior, or being pulled into vents and igniting the interior.
The big lesson here is, be prepared. Make your home fire-safe by using fire-resistant roofing and siding materials. And by installing ember-proof vents. And MOSTLY, by maintaining a fire-safe zone around our homes. This is, by the way, a law. There should be a 100-foot defensible space around every home and other structure in our town. That includes clearing burnable materials, not letting flammable shrubs and trees grow up against our homes, and raising the lower limbs of trees to at least 8 feet. Please help us all keep each other safe, by having a look around your property and making sure you have a defensible space. Especially since the Woodside Fire Protection District will be much more vigorous about enforcing these requirements in future. It is already expensive and nearly impossible to get insurance if you have a wood roof. Due to the recent fires, expect to see more of this from the insurance companies.
You can get fire-resistant vents at our local Home Depot or OK Lumber in Redwood City. They carry the VulcanVent. Learn more about the VulcanVent at:
Lean more about defensible space on these pages:
And find out about the Town of Woodside's Defensible Space Matching Fund Program:
Especially, be aware of the high danger from our many Eucalyptus, Acacia, and Monterey Pine trees. Embers traveling with the wind for miles have played a key part in spreading recent fires. See our Invasive Tree Removal page to learn more about getting rid of these hazards on your property.
Below are some PDF files of material that was available at these presentations. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with them, and get involved with your neighborhood's Emergency Preparedness team. The slides from the presentation will be available here as soon as we get our hands on them.
Ready, Set, GO - Wildland Fire Action Guide
Wildfire Safety Tips
Emergency Supply Checklist
Family Communication Plan
Family Communication Plan Wallet Cards