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National Weather Service warns of more fire danger this week

Original post made on Oct 20, 2019

The National Weather Service is warning of another weather pattern that will lead to an increased risk of wildfires in the Bay Area this week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, October 20, 2019, 3:20 PM

Comments (17)

5 people like this
Posted by October
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2019 at 3:45 pm

Today is the 28th anniversary of the Oakland firestorm that killed 25 and destroyed 3500 dwellings. In many ways we are still recovering,more from the failure of human systems and contracts than the disaster itself. We will be negativity affected financially for the rest of our lives, and yes, we had what we thought was good insurance. I am discouraged by how little has changed for the North Bay survivors.

I am spending the day doing medical billing paperwork that is just abusively punishing, as I have already been shoveling through it all month, and dealing with the inevitable depression and stress because of how insurers weaponized the paperwork in the years following the fire and how similar this is. Both my spouse and I struggle because of it. I’m not a single payer fan but would do it tomorrow if it relieved this regular assault. I have requested an accountant as an accommodation because vision problems have made it harder this year, but no dice. (One of the millions of Americans with a federal plan, so no bad faith protection or ability to complain to the state or due, and no consumer protection from DC.)

Get those shake roofs replaced people! Cut back weeds but no power tools...


7 people like this
Posted by PGE
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2019 at 7:07 pm

How many more enemies will PG&E make this week?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2019 at 8:27 pm

This is fire season in California.

As for Silicon Valley, we are sitting ducks, or pawns, in this. If PG&E decide to switch off power again, we have no alternative but to play their game.

Can Foothills Park be closed at times of high risk for fire?

What about other parks in the hills around the SF Bay? Should we be closing hiking trails, etc. when the power is switched off?

Keeping unnecessary people away from the hilly areas where there is potential fire alerts would make sense to me. This would make it easier for residents to escape in a fire as well as easier for emergency personnel to access a fire area.

Additionally, can we ban bikes from roads in the hills when there is a potential for fires in hills. Bikes would be a big problem both in how to get the riders out as well as bikes being abandoned on the sides of roads as the riders get rides away from a fire.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2019 at 9:40 am

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> This is fire season in California.

Yes.

>> As for Silicon Valley, we are sitting ducks, or pawns, in this. If PG&E decide to switch off power again, we have no alternative but to play their game.

A reminder for those dependent on DSL-based (e.g. AT&T) or cable-based (e.g. Comcast) telephone service-- it is generally -your- responsibility to provide backup power for your internet box (DSL modem, cable box, WiFi). A larger-size battery UPS will work for a low-power device or two.

I try to minimize the amount of value I have in my freezer at this time of year. Small UPS battery backup generally not practical for refrigerator/freezers. Maybe in 10 years we will all have a multipurpose reversible car-charger+powerwall-type battery backup etc., but, in the meantime, the freezer may be an issue...

>> Can Foothills Park be closed at times of high risk for fire?

I'm not sure Foothills Park is that much of a risk. During these periods, I've seen them block off the barbecues and check on people suspected of smoking. Most trails are close to a fire road; the major concern would be making sure people can evacuate quickly. It probably would make sense to close the back side of the Los Trancos Trail.

>> What about other parks in the hills around the SF Bay? Should we be closing hiking trails, etc. when the power is switched off?

You make a good point. I've been on some trails in some parks where escape in case of fire would be problematic. I don't hike those trails during these conditions.

>> Keeping unnecessary people away from the hilly areas where there is potential fire alerts would make sense to me. >> This would make it easier for residents to escape in a fire as well as easier for emergency personnel to access a fire area.

I don't think that most parking areas are that big and the crowds are that dense in most areas. Rancho San Antonio would be the counterexample.

>> Additionally, can we ban bikes from roads in the hills when there is a potential for fires in hills. Bikes would be a big problem both in how to get the riders out as well as bikes being abandoned on the sides of roads as the riders get rides away from a fire.

I know that bikes concern you, but, I think that bikers will be able to evacuate more quickly than cars. In fact, people in the hills might want to consider evacuation via bike in some cases. They can get off the road and out of the way of firetrucks and around obstructions. Downhill on, e.g., Page Mill, they can go as fast or faster than a line of cars. Uphill, if the fire is below, there are a lot of lateral routes including routes not available to cars. Something to think about, but, in many cases, bikes would be superior. In these firestorm incidents, we've seen fronts average up to 6 MPH, with firebrand-caused spotting ahead in places. A lot more people can ride at an average of 10 MPH for two hours than can jog/run at 6 MPH for 3-1/2 hours to do a 20 mile evacuation. Evacuation via bike is something that some people may want to consider.


10 people like this
Posted by Cars START fires
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2019 at 2:13 pm

The last huge Redding fire was started by a vehicle pulling a trailer.
Countless fires have been started by a car's near red hot exhaust and/or catalytic converters when parked over tall grass.

If we're worried about vehicles creating fire dangers, lets start with the vehicles that have started many many fires over the years.
Also, as stated above, bikes would be the superior way to get away from a wildfire because the cars will have jammed up all the roads.
Hahaha and good try though, angry anti-bike man. I see you, LOL.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2019 at 2:38 pm

Some public parks do close down on high fire alert days, especially Mount Diablo State Park that has lots of dry grass, warmer than average temperatures for the Bay Area, and lots of wind.


10 people like this
Posted by spandex, medium rare
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 21, 2019 at 2:58 pm

"bikes would be the superior way to get away from a wildfire"

Are you serious?

Escaping the Tubbs or Atlas fires by pedaling (in high winds, absurd smoke and ember filled air, advancing at high speeds) would be a death sentence for most people. And, I might add, a particularly terrifying, horrible way to go. Your lungs would be scorched before the fire consumes you.

Speeds of the fires: Web Link and "the Camp Fire in Northern California spread at more than a football field a second, or around 80 football fields per minute."

God God - the Tubbs fire was so fast, it torched a major hotel in the middle of north Santa Rosa burnt to a crisp without a hose being laid on it.

But put on your spandex and have a go at it!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2019 at 10:11 pm

Posted by spandex, medium rare, a resident of Greenmeadow

>> Escaping the Tubbs or Atlas fires by pedaling (in high winds, absurd smoke and ember filled air, advancing at high speeds) would be a death sentence for most people. And, I might add, a particularly terrifying, horrible way to go. Your lungs would be scorched before the fire consumes you.

I'm very aware of the danger. But, note something regarding the following quote:

>> Speeds of the fires: Web Link and "the Camp Fire in Northern California spread at more than a football field a second, or around 80 football fields per minute."

Watch distance vs area. The burned area expanded at that rate during one period. For the Tubbs fire, one of the referenced articles says this:

>> In just over four hours, the Tubbs fire made a horrific 12-mile run from Calistoga, in the northern edge of the Napa Valley, into a dense city neighborhood in west Santa Rosa. [...]

>> The fire traveled at a pace of about 3 mph, burning up about an acre a minute while spewing burning embers a half-mile or more ahead, forcing entire neighborhoods to flee in the middle of the night.**

Many people can walk at a speed of 4 mph, and, can bicycle at 10 mph. However, it is easy to get cut off if you don't leave in time and your escape route gets closer to the flame front. People get deceived by the apparent fairly slow speed of the main fire, and then get cut off by new spot fires behind them caused by wind-driven burning embers. Eucalyptus is particularly dangerous in that regard-- the high winds can send burning firebrands miles ahead of the main fire. In the Tubbs fire, many people mistakenly thought that the fire was "far away" when it was on the other side of Porter Creek Rd at midnight. 2-3 hrs later, the Santa Rosa neighborhoods were burning. But, the fire was "only" averaging 3 mph. Anyone confused by this should study the maps to see how simple it is to get caught at only 3 mph.

** Web Link
Web Link


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2019 at 10:24 am

BTW to those who say minimise what is contained in our freezers. Speaking for our family, our freezer is at its most full at this time of year, full of summer fruits for winter pies and veggies for winter soups and casseroles and tomatoes for pasta sauces. Those of us who grow food in summer want to be able to use our freezers to store them for the winter. For those who have generators (not many I know) it is the contents of our freezers that are the most important as opposed to computers. A news report interviewing restaurants and food businesses showed that it is the destruction of food that causes the main problem even after lack of business from customers.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2019 at 9:21 am

Stanford has announced it has closed the Dish on Thursday due to high fire danger. It would be wise, imo, for Palo Alto to close both Arastradero Park and Foothills Park for the same reason.

Keeping unnecessary traffic off Page Mill Road seems like a no brainer to me in times of high fire danger as well as keeping the potential of having to evacuate a park when a fire has already started.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2019 at 9:55 am

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Speaking for our family, our freezer is at its most full at this time of year, full of summer fruits for winter pies and veggies [...] For those who have generators (not many I know) it is the contents of our freezers that are the most important as opposed to computers. A news report interviewing restaurants and food businesses showed that it is the destruction of food that causes the main problem even after lack of business from customers.

There is no simple solution to your requirements. The power grid has never been "UPS", let alone to the single family home level, in a city of trees in a place that has always has wind storms. "The market" doesn't support your requirements-- you can buy very expensive small refrigerators designed for the healthcare industry to support high-value items like blood products and vaccines, but, these are small and expensive. Refrigerators use too much power for simple, small, inexpensive battery backup. Your own inexpensive generator is about your only option today, although in the future there will be products that will support your requirement-- e.g. Tesla Powerwall. But, seriously, don't ever expect the grid to be 100% up. It is not going to happen.


2 people like this
Posted by Bikes faster down Page Mill
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 23, 2019 at 12:30 pm

We're not talking about flat areas, we're talking about getting down PM or across a fire cut or trail then down, and doing it faster than the inevitable line of cars would be able to, if at all.
Flatland? Cars are best. Getting down page Mill, Bikes win, esp when everyone else is in their car. Sitting still would be the assured death sentence in that case. That's where cars will be, while the people on bikes maneuver around them, just like current traffic jams in town.
If you're the only guy on the mountain with a car or the roads are empty, then you'll be fine.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Palo Alto Utilities are now monitoring the foothills in case they need to switch off power. PAFD have also moved a fire truck up there.

Anyone going up there for recreational reasons could potentially be in harm's way. If a fire starts, there is no way of knowing how many people are in Foothills Park and most of them won't have a phone signal to alert them if there is an evacuation order. There is no way to know just how many hikers/bikers could be trapped without knowing of an emergency.


6 people like this
Posted by OMG
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2019 at 6:16 am

There is no way to know anything in life. Cocoon yourself inside and tremble as needed.
I'll be hiking in FH park today, look me up if it's not too scary for you.
Some friends and I will be doing a 5 mile walk, meeting by the restrooms at 9am...and 3 of them don't live in PA(!!!) LOL :)


Like this comment
Posted by shukaduka
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm

When discussing times and dates, I want to know full dates. This article supplies the date (at the top, 10/20) but later uses ambiguous days of the week (Tuesday, etc.) Today I'm reading this and writing about it on 10/26, and when I read to expect winds to increase Tuesday, I momentarily thought this exempted the days 10/26 to 10/29 (next Tuesday). But I took a moment to look at the date of posting, in part because I had heard that today would be a "bad" day for winds. Can writers and editors to a bit more to hear what they are saying as it can be misunderstood, when the issues are critical, and brevity and style may be less important than clarity? BTW I love this paper, and mean no anger or sarcasm.


Like this comment
Posted by spandex, medium rare
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 26, 2019 at 1:08 pm

> When discussing times and dates, I want to know full dates.

Then go to the source, not to an underfunded local paper, particularly to a week old article. Also suggest NIXLE, various social media connections directly to the local OES's, twitter directly to Pathetic Gas & Electric, 740am, etc..

A week old article????


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Posted by spandex, medium rare
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 26, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Sorry, I understand the frustration, but we've three summers of this kind of disaster. It's here to stay. Define and design your particular response methods. Use multiple sources, diversify for protection in different environments (power loss, quake, etc..)

I'd recommend also add overall air quality to the mix - airnow Web Link


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