Preparation advice, evacuation guidance and answers to your questions about air quality, power outages and defending your property
The threat of catastrophic wildfire is nothing new in the Berkeley Hills. But hotter, drier weather linked to climate change means fires are more common and more destructive. Berkeleyside has created this guide to help you prepare, stay informed and keep safe during the 2021 fire season.
Do not rely on this guide during an emergency. In an emergency, follow the instructions of AC Alerts, look up your evacuation zone number and stay tuned to local radio (1610 AM), TV and Nixle alerts for updated information.
The Berkeley Fire Department declares Extreme Fire Weather due to forecasted high winds and low humidity on the highest-risk Red Flag days. Since 1991, it says, every major fire threatening the East Bay has started under these conditions. During Extreme Fire Weather, Berkeley Fire strongly recommends you leave the hills — even before a fire starts.
If you see something that’s missing, outdated or inaccurate in this guide, or have a question that hasn’t been answered, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What does a Red Flag Warning mean?
- Why should I preemptively relocate during Extreme Fire Weather and Diablo winds?
- How will I know when to evacuate?
- I’ve been ordered to evacuate. What should I do?
- What should I do if I get trapped during a fire?
- Am I legally required to evacuate? What if I want to protect my home?
- Who will be there to help during and after a wildfire?
- What do wildfires have to do with air pollution? How do distant fires cause pollution in the Bay Area?
- How bad is wildfire smoke for my health?
- I’ve had COVID-19. What do I need to know about wildfire smoke?
- How can I protect myself from wildfire smoke? When do I need to wear a mask or stay indoors?
- Which masks best protect against wildfire smoke?
- How can I reduce the impact of wildfire smoke inside of my home?
- How can I monitor air quality in my neighborhood?
- How do I protect my property against wildfire?
- Do defensible space regulations apply to my property?
- What does it mean to harden my home against fire?
- What help is available if I can’t afford the high costs of fire prevention?
- I rent. What should I know about wildfire safety?
- Should I use sprinklers or hose down my yard or deck during a fire? (No!)
- My fire insurance was canceled. What should I do?
Latest wildfire stories
How seniors and people with disabilities can prepare for wildfires
Issues with mobility, hearing, vision, frailty and intellectual or developmental disabilities make emergency preparedness more challenging. Preparation can help and may save lives.
East Bay park district disputes fire agency’s effort to dictate wildfire management policy
The Moraga-Orinda Fire District has cited the East Bay Regional Park District for code violations, but does it have authority to do so?
The shrubs across the street nearly cost him his home insurance
It’s not yet common, but in high-risk fire neighborhoods, Berkeley Hills residents may find that keeping their home insurance depends on how well their neighbors prune their property.
Red Flag Warning issued for Berkeley, East Bay Hills
The Red Flag Warning due to low humidity and windy conditions will be in place Sunday evening through Monday evening.
The Berkeley Wildfire Guide is a collaboration between Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. It was written by Kate Darby Rauch and Brian Krans, edited by Zac Farber and Jacob Simas, designed by Doug Ng and illustrated by T.L. Simons. You can read a version of the guide tailored for Oakland residents on The Oaklandside.
Information overload can be an issue as you plan for emergencies. That’s why we’ve compared information and vetted sources for you, with the aim of providing only credible and recent information from trusted sources.
Sources used in compiling this guide: CalFire, Berkeley Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department, FEMA, Alameda County Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, National Interagency Fire Center, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Centers for Disease Control, Pacific Gas & Electric, East Bay Municipal Utility District, East Bay Regional Park District, California Fire Safe Council, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Community Emergency Alert Teams, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, University of California Cooperative Extension, Oakland Animal Services, Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network, Hills Emergency Forum, Alameda County Office of Emergency Services, Oakland Firesafe Council, Diablo Firesafe Council, FIRESafe Marin, Public Health Institute, California Air Resources Board, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, American Red Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Mask Oakland, Zonehaven, ALERTWildfire, City of Mill Valley, City of Ross.
The image illustrating defensible space in the property section of this guide is adapted from the Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide (publication #SP-20-11) with permission from University of Nevada, Reno Extension and the Living With Fire Program.