Oakland Hills neighborhood at extreme fire danger risk

By Emily Talley, San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2022

“Plenty of green spaces across the Bay Area are at high fire risk, but the extreme danger is concentrated in the Oakland hills. The community has about 25,000 homes. Many are accessible only by narrow roads with hairpin turns — which makes it hard to escape quickly and difficult for fire trucks to race up to a blaze. The deepening drought has wrung moisture out of the vegetation, increasing the risk of a wildfire erupting.

“On [June 18], a vegetation fire broke out in the Sheffield Village area of the Oakland Hills, underscoring the risks.

“Though several changes have been made since [a deadly 1991 wildfire in the Oakland Hills], including increased communication between fire departments and changes to building codes that make homes more resistant to fire, it has proved challenging to [improve evacuation routes by widening] narrow roads that snake across steep terrain.

“The risk is so great that in September the Oakland City Council unanimously approved a controversial ban regulating accessory dwelling units in the hills to slow population growth.

“[Heather Mozdean, deputy chief of operations for the Oakland Fire Department] explained that even though the city is taking steps to minimize risk, ‘it’s the one-off.’

“It’s ‘the person who doesn’t think it’s a big deal to throw a cigarette out the window,’ she said. … And if the weather conditions are right, wildfire could spread rapidly in the region.”

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