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Published August 31st, 2022
As peak wildfire danger looms, Lafayette's Emergency Preparedness Commission conducts second town hall
An AlertWildfire camera in the Oakland Hills with the Orinda Country Club seen in the distance. Photo provided

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Deputy Fire Chief Aaron McAlister, during the second Emergency Preparedness Commission "Get Ready for Wildfire Season" town hall on Aug. 25, said they expect to see significant wildland fires in the coming months. "We've reached critical mass in the highest fire danger zone," he said. "This is the time of year when we see the most devastating fires."
McAlister and other panelists - Lafayette Police Chief Ben Alldritt, Emergency Services Coordinator John Cornell and American Red Cross volunteer Briana Taylor - agree that planning for first responders as well as community members will be the key to averting disaster.
Infrastructure has been put in place throughout Lafayette, and in surrounding areas, to ensure quick response time in the event of a fire. AlertCalifornia (formerly AlertWildfire) is now a multi-statewide program with 50 cameras in place to find wildfires and monitor them once they start. The cameras allow first responders to scale resources up or down within seconds of discovery and follow fire behavior in real time, Cornell said. The Lafayette Police Department also has a mobile camera on a solar powered trailer that can be put in front of a fire to give a closer look to areas might not accessible for personnel. Pacific Gas and Electric Weather Analytics weather stations, which can be accessed online, provide vital real-time wind direction data.
Cornell also outlined a long list of other assets in place, including: multiple community shelter locations; a portable AC/heating system; high speed satellite internet; radios for volunteers; multiple generators; a portable cell phone tower; portable wifi and charging stations; a mobile communications center; and generator backup on Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Moraga Road and Pleasant Hill Road which allows these signals to function properly in the event of a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff.
ConFire has recently added bulldozer staff and hand crew staff, which McAlister says "do some of the most backbreaking work and allow our crew to get our equipment back to being service ready."
All this preparation means less if the community isn't involved and prepared. Residents are urged to sign up for the Community Warning System for evacuation alerts at (https://cwsalerts.com). According to Chief Alldritt, the community will be alerted of a fire or other emergency in stages, depending on the severity of the event, beginning with social media, then on Nixel if the emergency will affect the community for a longer period, and finally CWS. "If we're going to evacuate, (the announcement) will go out on CWS," Alldritt said. "This is the top tier."
Taylor suggested using Red Flag days to make sure you're prepared: park your cars outside of the garage and facing out on the driveway, fill your gas tank, check and replenish your go-bag. "During a major fire, people are always surprised how fast a fire moves," Taylor said. "When authorities issue a warning, you need to act."
As at the prior town hall, presenters urged the public to read through the Wildfire Preparation Guide sent to all Lamorinda residents, which can be found at local libraries, as well as police departments and fire stations or can be downloaded at www.lovelafayette.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=5858.
For more information, visit www.lovelafayette.org/wildfire.

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