Wildfire fears: Woodside fire district calls meetings


When it comes to weather forecasts, Peninsula residents should be paying much closer attention when the Woodside Fire Protection District forecasts a hot, dry day. The combination of low humidity and high temperature is ideal for a wildfire. Add wind and the odds of a conflagration go up significantly, fire Chief Dan Ghioro says.

That's a key message fire district officials will be making at a community meeting tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 14) at the main fire station in Woodside, and on Wednesday (Nov. 15) in Portola Valley and Thursday (Nov. 16) in Emerald Hills

Many residents of Portola Valley, Woodside and nearby unincorporated communities in the Woodside district live in what wildfire experts call a wildland-urban interface.

Such communities were among those devastated by recent catastrophic wildfires in Northern California, including in North Bay counties in mid-October when smoke drifted over the Peninsula for a few days.

To offer lessons in the aftermath of those fires and the Skeggs Fire in the hills above Woodside in mid-September, including comments on evacuation plans, Woodside fire officials will hold three 90-minute community meetings on three consecutive evenings Nov. 14-16.

Participating will be Chief Ghiorso, Deputy Chief Rob Lindner, Fire Marshal Denise Enea and Selena Brown, the public education coordinator for the Citizens Emergency Response Preparedness Program.

The meetings are set for:

• 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the main fire station at 3111 Woodside Road in Woodside's town center.

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in the Community Hall at Portola Valley Town Center at 765 Portola Road in Portola Valley.

• 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Emerald Hills fire station at 4091 Jefferson Ave. in Woodside.

Click here for more information.

A key lesson from recent fires is the need to pay close attention when daily high-fire-danger and red-flag notices are issued by Woodside district officials, Chief Ghiorso said in an interview. People in the North Bay were caught by surprise, he said.

Red-flag notices, particularly on windy days, "are very significant," the chief said. "You have to take those warnings seriously. You have to keep your ears and eyes open. It's not acceptable to turn off your phone or keep it in a place where you can't hear it (at night)."

The wind was not a factor in the Sept. 11 Skeggs fire, which is thought to have been caused by lightning and which, over four days, burned 50 acres of woodland above Woodside.

That fire first came to the fire district's attention from a helicopter pilot, the chief said. Firefighters had to wait until the next day to enter the forest and begin fighting the fire. The absence of wind was a significant factor in its containment, he said.

Another possible topic for discussion at the community meetings: warning sirens, and the difficulty of installing them so they can be effective in the fire district, with its wooded hills. "I don't think people here are going to want that," the chief said.


Sign up for Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Dave Boyce


12 people like this
Posted by Time to change the rules
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Nov 14, 2017 at 1:46 pm

The Napa Fires should be telling our Town Councilors that it is time to change the rules related to tree removal. There is absolutely no reason to have 100's of massive trees that will crown in a fire similar to the Napa fires.

Let homeowners remove overgrown trees without incident, without permits, and without delays from the Town or Town Council, and knock off the fines for tree removal. Yes we love our Woodside neighborhoods, and the lush foliage, but this area is clearly in danger of becoming a serious fire hazard. Homeowners should remove Pine trees, eucalyptus, Acacia, and oaks.

4 people like this
Posted by Time to Change the rules
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Nov 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm

It is time to allow residents to remove trees that homeowners believe are overgrown, and those that show opportunity for Crowning in a fire. Knock off the Tree removal fines. Allow homeowners to remove however many trees they feel should be removed to provide a safe environment that will allow plenty of defensible space. That means Homeowners, not Council members, should have the ability to remove whatever trees they choose to remove without any permits, including Oaks, Eucaplytus, Acacia, Pine, or any other trees. This area is so overgrown, that should a fire start in Woodside, we may indeed see the same disaster that we all saw in Napa.

I know we all love our beautiful Woodside, but it won't be beautiful, if it all burns down.

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As an experienced wildland fire professional I am deeply concerned that our entire area, with its heavy (and beautiful) fuel/vegetation load and with the significant use of flammable construction materials is as significant risk of exactly the type of devastation that occurred in Santa Rosa.

We need better preparation, planning, alerting systems, voluntary and mandatory fire safety/fuel load reduction/removal zones, voluntary and mandatory removal of flammable construction materials and well defined, tested and signed evacuation routes.

Here is an absolute must read - Does California need to rethink urban fire risk after wine country tragedy?:

Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Downtown Redwood City gets Japanese kaiseki restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,919 views

Couples: Child Loss, "No U-Turn at Mercy Street"
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,379 views

Which Cocktail Has the Least Calories?
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 1,147 views