Police and firefighters will be out in North Berkeley neighborhoods this week practicing wildfire response (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso

This week, Berkeley police and firefighters will be making the rounds in some North Berkeley neighborhoods as they practice skills related to urban wildfire response.

According to a notice released by police Monday morning, the training is set to take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week in the North Berkeley Hills.

“The purpose of these training sessions is to improve the safety of our residents during wildfire emergencies. Responders will practice real-time determination of evacuation routes, firefighting tactics and strategies, and communication protocols,” according to the statement, which was released over the Nixle alert service.

The training comes on the heels of an early-morning vegetation fire in Tilden park on Sunday that drew five fire companies to the Berkeley-Oakland hills to put it out. Sunday’s fire broke out not far from where the historic 1991 firestorm began, on Oct. 19, 1991. On that day, firefighters believed they had succeeded in extinguishing the blaze. But flames erupted again the next day, aided by strong winds, and the resulting conflagration turned into one of the worst firestorms ever seen in the country.

Don’t be alarmed if you see police and firefighters in North Berkeley this week. They’re practicing urban wildfire response. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Don’t be alarmed if you see police and firefighters in North Berkeley this week. They’re practicing urban wildfire response. Photo: Emilie Raguso

This week, first responders will be passing out information to residents about how to prepare for wildfire risk.

In addition, “Residents in the north Berkeley hills should expect to see an increase in fire apparatus, police cars and police officers knocking on doors on these dates,” according to the notice.

The city asks local residents to make sure they are ready for a wildfire by planning evacuation routes, knowing where to find information during an emergency, preparing property to be wildfire resistant and having an evacuation packing list.

According to the city’s 2014 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, wildland-urban fires “occur where the natural landscape and urban-built environment meet or intermix. There may be a distinct boundary between the built and natural areas, or development or infrastructure may be intermixed in the natural area.” These “fires primarily cause damage to the natural and built environment, as well as injury and death of people and animals.”

According to that report, “The incidences of large wildfires in California could more than double by century’s end, and higher summer temperatures will likely lengthen the fire season in our region.” In Berkeley itself, “scientists project little change” to the fire risk, but “development that expands Berkeley’s wildland urban interface area may increase the vulnerability to property losses due to wildfire.”

The city offers many tips related to wildfire evacuation online. Learn more:

Additional resources from the city of Berkeley:

Want alerts from the city in case of a disaster or other public safety incident? Sign up for Nixle and BENS. In 2011, for the 20-year anniversary, Berkeleyside took a close look at the impacts of the 1991 firestorm in the Berkeley and Oakland hills. See the complete series.

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Berkeley unites for earthquake safety (04.29.13)
Get prepared for an emergency: Here’s how (10.21.11)
Loss assessment: Building anew after devastation (10.20.11)
Twenty years after a catastrophe, recollections — Part 3 (10.19.11)
Twenty years after a catastrophe, recollections — Part 2 (10.18.11)
On 20th anniversary, community remembers Firestorm (10.06.11)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...