Portola Valley: Firefighters to stage wildfire drill Saturday


Between 60 and 80 firefighters and their emergency vehicles will gather in Portola Valley from around San Mateo County for the Woodside Fire Protection District's annual fire drill on Saturday, April 16.

From 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m., the fire district will stage a simulated wildland-urban-interface fire in the Alpine Hills neighborhood -- along the north side of Alpine Road and east of Roberts Market -- for the purpose of crew training and management and educating the public on preparing for and responding to a wildfire, according to fire district Battalion Chief Kevin Butler, the drill's incident commander.

The exercise will include voluntary evacuation from the Alpine Hills neighborhood, followed by mandatory evacuation, Mr. Butler said. From 9 to 10:30 a.m., access to Golden Oak Drive will be restricted, and evacuating residents will be directed to Westridge Drive, he said.

At Portola Valley Town Hall, representatives from the county Office of Emergency Services will collaborate with town staff in sharpening their skills at getting the town's ad hoc emergency operations center up and running. The town will be using a reverse-911-like system to notify residents, as well as the SMC Alert warning system, Mr. Butler said.

There will be actual flames and smoke this year, starting at about 10 a.m. Small controlled fires of piles of brush are planned for a cleared area of the Hawthorns, the 79-acre estate located south of the intersection of Portola Road and Alpine Road and owned by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Two of the open-space district's tank trucks will be on the scene, as will the crews of five fire engines with their equipment, Mr. Butler said.

The open-space district has permission to burn from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. But if the weather isn't accommodating in all its aspects humidity and wind speed, for example the burn will not take place, Mr. Butler said.

A team from the district's Citizens Emergency and Response Preparedness Program will be participating, as will deputies from the county Sheriff's Office. The drill will not involve firefighting aircraft.

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