Oakland Warns Residents Fire Season Is Coming

Thousands of residents in the Oakland Hills are getting reminders in the mail that COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders are having no impact on the hot weather and coming fire danger.

Mailers have gone out now to remind residents that property inspections will continue as usual.

“We have been watching the grass grow extremely fast with the repeated patterns of really hot days and then light rain which is making the grass take off,” says interim Oakland Fire Chief Melinda Drayton. “So we’re seeing a high grass level at this point.”

That fuel has already caused grass fires around the Bay Area in the last week.

“We are entering drought again from a statewide perspective, just not enough rain this year,” says Drayton, who is concerned that another long and dangerous fire season could coincide with shelter-in-place orders and social distancing that could impact fire operations.

City crews are trimming branches on public land and sending goats out to graze on Grizzly Peak, which Drayton hopes will serve as a visual reminder to residents to take precautions on their own properties.

“The silver lining of the shelter-in-place is people have been able to do things around their home that they may not have in years past,” says Drayton. Restrictions on gardening and landscaping have been lifted under the latest shelter-in-place orders, and yard work was always permitted for fire safety.

Inspectors are starting to crack down on problem lots first, and then home visits may ramp up in mid-June. This comes as the city could be facing a budget shortfall of up to $87 million due to the coronavirus. 

City departments including fire and police will hear next Wednesday about potential budget cuts.