Preparing for Fire Season

If we have learned anything these past few months, it's that being prepared for unlikely - but foreseeable - emergencies is of critical importance. Sheltering-in-place provides an excellent opportunity to plan and prepare for fire season by removing vegetation and debris, and preparing for potential power shut-offs and evacuations.

Berkeley's Fire Fuel Chipper and Debris Bin Program provide a chipping service and debris bins to support fire safe vegetation management of private yards.  This year the program will begin June 1st and end September 18th, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood according to a fixed schedule which can be found on the City's fuel chipper and debris bin webpage.

If you have additional questions about vegetation management, please call the Customer Service Center at 510-981-7270 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm weekdays, or email [email protected].

Fires in our dry region can start quickly and move at high speeds, which means it’s important to be able to leave quickly in an evacuation. A few things you can do to prepare:

  • Get emergency alerts: Sign up for notifications via AC Alert. Register as many means of contact as possible so you will be notified wherever you are.
  • Pack or refresh your "go bag": Everyone in your household should have a go bag with the things you would need to safely evacuate. In the era of COVID-19, this includes face coverings and hand sanitizer. If you have a go bag already, check it this week and replace any expired items, like food or batteries.

Use our evacuation checklist: In an emergency, you have to act quickly. Even if you've planned ahead, it can be challenging to remember everything while under the pressure of an evacuation. Print out our wildfire evacuation checklist to use as a reference. Practice evacuation; two routes by foot and two routes by car, to ensure you are prepared for any scenario.

Make sure you are also aware of heightened threats that may occur due to certain weather conditions. On the driest and most at-risk days the National Weather Service issues red-flag warnings, and red flags are hung on poles throughout the city. The warning will also be published on the city’s website and broadcast through the AC Alert system. During a red flag warning, use extreme caution and avoid anything that could cause a spark.

In extreme fire conditions, there may also be additional “public safety power shut offs” where PG&E preemptively turns off power to threatened areas. While eliminating one source of ignition for wildfires, these shut-offs create their own risks and don’t preclude ignition by another source.  Please download the City of Berkeley's printable flyer with information about how to prepare for these shutoffs.

By following these guidelines for wildfire preparedness we can make sure our community is better prepared for the upcoming fire season and reduce hazards in our community.

  • Sophie Hahn

Vice Mayor & District 5 Councilmember