Posted November 18, 2017

Our fire fighters in the Woodside Fire Protection District gave a great presentation on the recent fires here in our district, and in the larger Bay Area. You can see the announcement for these presentations here:

These informative presentations, with lively discussion, were given by Fire Chief Dan Ghiorso, Deputy Fire Chief Rob Lindner, and Public Education Officer Selena Brown, who is also our CERPP Coordinator. Need I say, we got a lot of solid information and advice. And the community involvement was inspiring, with the events attended by several hundred residents over its 3 nights.

Mostly discussed were the Skeggs fire, here in Woodside, and the Santa Rosa fire. There will be more presentations about the Santa Rosa fire as more hard data becomes available. Right now the forces in that area are still struggling to organize the aftermath of the disaster.

There were lessons learned in all of these cases. Many of the homes in Santa Rosa were burned to the ground, while the trees around them remain standing and green. These homes burned from the inside, started by embers on the roof, or blown into vents. In some areas, there was no power, no cell phone, no direct emergency radio. The resource that saved the day there was local Ham radio operators with their portable generators.

Our local event, now known as the Skeggs Fire, was about 50 acres of wildland fire located in Woodside. It was started by lightning strikes throughout the area. Most caused minor fires that were quickly put out. The Skeggs fire took 4 days to beat down. It started on September 11 in the evening of a day with little wind and not-too-low humidity. Due to its remote location, firefighters were not able to reach the actual fire until the next morning. Thanks to the preparedness of our local firefighters, teams from San Mateo Fire, and air support from Cal Fire, for a total of 85 firefighters working on the scene, it ONLY burned 50 acres. These people are definitely our heroes.

It did not go so well in Santa Rosa, where humidity was low, temperatures and winds were high. That fire devastated the area. In a region that had about 200 structures 30 years ago when the last major fire struck there, this time entire communities were destroyed in hours. We were shown aerial photos of the area, that interestingly showed hundreds of homes burned to the ground while the trees around them were still standing. We were told that this pattern clearly indicates that the homes burned FROM THE INSIDE. That means the home fires were started by embers landing on the roof, then burning through to the interior, or being pulled into vents and igniting the interior.

The big lesson here is, be prepared. Make your home fire-safe by using fire-resistant roofing and siding materials. And by installing ember-proof vents. And MOSTLY, by maintaining a fire-safe zone around our homes. This is, by the way, a law. There should be a 100-foot defensible space around every home and other structure in our town. That includes clearing burnable materials, not letting flammable shrubs and trees grow up against our homes, and raising the lower limbs of trees to at least 8 feet. Please help us all keep each other safe, by having a look around your property and making sure you have a defensible space. Especially since the Woodside Fire Protection District will be much more vigorous about enforcing these requirements in future.

Learn more about making a Defensible Space around your home here:
There are some great fire-resistant vents that can be easily installed. You can get these from Home Depot or OK Lumber in Redwood City. Learn more about the VulcanVent product at

Below are some PDF files of material that was available at these presentations. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with them, and get involved with your neighborhood's Emergency Preparedness team. The slides from the presentation will be available here as soon as we get our hands on them.

Ready, Set, GO - Wildland Fire Action Guide
Wildfire Safety Tips
Emergency Supply Checklist
Family Communication Plan
Family Communication Plan Wallet Cards
PowerPoint slides from the presentation (38 Mb)