ReferThe town council, town staff and Woodside Fire Protection District all work to keep residents safe from fire. However, it is up to each individual to help prevent flames and smoke from destroying our well-being. I am committed to helping promote mitigation of fire risk. Let me know your ideas on how to be safe from fire risk.
To reduce fire, each house needs to have a defensible space. I remember staying on Point Reyes at a naturopathist's bed and breakfast after a wildfire many years ago. She had cultivated a garden around her home and her neighbors' houses had been burned down. We looked out over her flower beds of sweet peas, and, beyond her garden, hillsides of blackened tree trunks. The only damage she suffered was a melted free-standing hot tub, which her insurance thankfully replaced just before we arrived. The healing atmosphere of her house was so great we stayed an extra night, so I could have my 2nd massage there. It was wonderful relaxing experience, but so easily her premises and livelihood could have been destroyed.
I'd be in favor of giving low-income homeowners a grant to support a defensible perimeter round their homes. This could help remove undergrowth and flammable trees. Much as we need to conserve water and encourage tree canopies, with a rural-residential boundary at our doorsteps, we need to think of how we can make our entire community as fire resistant and firewise as practically possible, within the constraint of preserving beauty.
With increasingly hot temperatures and the risk of lightning strikes we need to ensure all high structures have mitigated the risk of getting lit aflame by afixing lightning rods. The use of weed whackers, chain saws and other devices likely to cause sparks needs to be reduced when fire risk is very high.
The town's public works department has spent time cutting back roadside brush and dead materials that could easily catch fire. I encourage this action, together with the Woodside Fire Protection District's chipper program.
We need to work together with and recruit more local emergency management volunteers. Each family needs to work out a plan. One way to do this would be to follow FEMA National Incident Management System roles and even within a unit as small as a family, identify roles - principal coordinator, person to buy/manage supplies, communicator to send messages to other family members, etc.
We need to make sure everyone knows how to evacuate - which routes could be used and what to take. We need a rehearsal - which was delayed because of COVID - but that's really no excuse. Whereas the emergency services and school children have had drills, we need them for town residents. Besides people, we need to think about horses and pets. We may have very little time to evacuate stables. San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation Group (SMC LAEG) is a volunteer group that helps evacuate horses and other large animals.
You can see some videos on how to mitigate fire risk and prepare for a wildfire evacuation here. We have a town emergency radio station on 1680AM that citizens need to be reminded of. Cellphones and the Internet may fail in an emergency.
Angela Hey is a candidate for Portola Valley Town Council. She is an experienced technology marketing consultant who serves nonprofits, as a volunteer.