Councilmember Susan Wengraf   
Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Newsletter #53


October, 2016

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

    This October, we are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the devastating Oakland-Berkeley Hills wildfire on October 19th that destroyed over 3,000 homes and took the lives of 25 residents, due in part to narrow and difficult-to-navigate streets.

    Efforts to improve unobstructed access for ambulances and fire trucks have been challenging on our curvy and clogged streets. I have been working with the Berkeley Fire Department, the Transportation Department, the Disaster Safety Commission and several neighborhood groups to make sure that this issue moves forward towards a balanced resolution.

    Through many discussions, and at various Town Hall meetings, it is evident that emergency access in the hills is an issue of high concern. However, it is also important that there is adequate parking along streets in the hills. I am working with many different groups to find a balanced solution.

    In the meantime, I have created a courtesy flier that can be placed on the windshields of vehicles that are obstructing passage, notifying the owner that they are violating codes. If you walk in the hills and would like to help educate our vehicle owners, please call my office and we will give you some courtesy fliers. The distance needed for clear passage of a fire truck or ambulance is 14 feet tire to tire. You don't have to measure - if it looks too narrow, place the notice on the windshield. Better safe than sorry. For more information call us at: 981-7160.

    My best,

Susan Wengraf
ballotMonster State and Local Election Ballot
Monster ballot
    On November 8 you will have an opportunity to cast your vote on 17 statewide propositions - and 15 regional and city measures. That's a lot to read and research!

    I can't send recommendations from my city office;  however, there are other great resources available. For state measures, visit  Ballotpedia and the Courage Campaign.  For local measures, see our local League of Women Voters.

    You can vote now if you have received your ballot in the mail.  There's still time to sign up to vote by mail (Requests must be received by November 1). You can also vote any day from now until Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8th at your County Registrar of Voters office in Oakland. On November 8, polling places will be open 7am to 8 pm to vote in person or to drop off your vote by mail ballot.

If you are mailing in your ballot, postage is $1.35.

The City of Berkeley uses ranked-choice voting. To understand more about this method, go to:

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anniversary25th Anniversary of the Berkeley - Oakland Firestorm
Tunnel fire
    This October, the Cities of Berkeley and Oakland are commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Berkeley-Oakland Hills Firestorm that occurred on October 19, 1991.

    The fire burned for three days, killed 25 people, and destroyed 3,354 homes - 63 of them in Berkeley.

    Residents and City workers alike have not forgotten how crews came from all over the state to help fight the fire and keep it from spreading.

    Below is a summary of some of the investments and policy decisions that have been made by the City Council as a result of what was learned from the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Fire:

Vegetation Management
  • The City adopted Wildland Interface Codes to provide stricter vegetation management policies and enforcement guidelines.
  • The City provides a Free Chipper and Debris Bag program to encourage residents to clean up their properties and improve vegetation management during fire season.
  • All members of the Hills Emergency Forum have developed vegetation management programs. The Hills Emergency Forum developed a Fuels Management Plan (FMP) in 1996.
Fire Department Emergency Response
  • Residents passed Measure Q, a $9.75 million bond measure that allowed for the purchase of an emergency above ground water system. This system allows us to pump water out of Lake Anza or the bay to fight fires in situations where the below-ground water system is weak or has failed. 
  • Residents passed Measure G, a $55 million bond that allowed for the earthquake retrofit of six fire stations and the construction of the new Public Safety Building and Fire Station 7 in the Berkeley hills.
  • The City participates in a Radio Interoperability system named EBRCS (East Bay Regional Communications System), which improves our ability to communicate with 32 other jurisdictions for fire, law enforcement, and emergency medical service response.
  • On high-fire days, fire apparatus perform roving patrols in hills neighborhoods.
  • In 2011, Berkeley purchased a Type III Wildland Engine, which expands our capacity to fight fires in areas where wildland and urban areas meet.
  • Berkeley will also soon put a Type VI Wildland Engine in service.
  • Fire commanders have received additional training in wildland firefighting.
  • BFD has coordinated regional communications and staging drills to familiarize outside agencies with Berkeley target hazards and staging areas.
  • BFD participates annually with Alameda County and Contra Costa Wildland Training Drills.
  • Berkeley's entry-level firefighter training includes wildland firefighting strategy and tactics.
  • The City has developed mutual response area agreements with Alameda County, Oakland, Moraga-Orinda, East Bay Regional Parks, El Cerrito, and Richmond Fire Departments for fire response during fire season.
  • In addition, the Berkeley Fire Department has established automatic aid agreements with the Albany and El Cerrito-Kensington Fire Departments to provide swift response by resources from mutually threatened cities with their closest fire engines.  The operations at these incidents are "unified" from the start - providing for seamless interoperability.
  • BFD firefighters receive annual training to understand "fire weather" and to perform surveillance of critical fire weather patterns.
  • The City purchased gear and equipment that is more appropriate for wildland firefighting.
Community Emergency Preparedness
  • Berkeley residents passed Measure GG, the Fire and Disaster Preparedness Tax, to support minimum staffing of fire stations, invest in radio interoperability, increase the number of first responder paramedics, and expand community training and disaster preparedness.
  • Berkeley has a Community Cache Program which allows neighborhood groups to be trained in emergency preparedness and be provided the tools for neighborhood disaster response. More than 100 disaster equipment caches have been supplied to groups all over the City.
  • Thousands of Berkeley residents have participated in disaster preparedness training, including wildfire preparedness forums in the Berkeley Hills.
  • A website with wildfire evacuation information was created and shared with the community.
  • The Berkeley Emergency Notification System (BENS) was developed to provide information on life-threatening emergencies and to share protective actions to the people of Berkeley through text message, voicemail, and email.
  • The Berkeley Emergency Accessible Community Organizations Network (BEACON) was formed to coordinate organizations that work with seniors and people with disabilities. The organizations meet together to address the needs of their clients, coordinate information and plans, and to provide disaster preparedness training and information to those they serve.
  • Community Resilience Centers have been designated to serve as hubs of disaster preparedness and response resources and information in neighborhoods otherwise underserved by other programs. They are a site for trainings, host a disaster supply cache, and have pledged to coordinate with the City during disasters.
  • The City has adopted a cutting-edge Local Hazard Mitigation Plan that addresses the hazards of greatest concern (earthquakes and wildfires) as well as how climate change will affect those hazards and ways the City can address and diminish those hazards.
  • The City is in the process of adopting a new Emergency Operations Plan which will encourage nimble coordination and support for emergency and disaster situations in the City and increase compliance with State and Federal requirements for disaster response.
Building Requirements

    The State has passed many new code regulations for the buildings located in high fire hazard areas, which includes the Berkeley and Oakland Hills. In 2008 the City of Berkeley adopted the building and fire regulations set by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

    Berkeley Building Code adopts the State's approach for protecting structures from wildland fires and includes additional local provisions:
  • Roofs (and roof replacements) are required to be Class A minimum - that means that they are effective against severe fire exposure. Wooden shakes or shingles are prohibited regardless of the assembly rating of the roof system;
  • Spark arrestors are required when certain kinds of heating appliances are modified or whenever a structure is re-roofed;
  • There are higher standards for replacement of existing exterior wall coverings;
  • Underground utility connections are required for new construction;
  • Areas in the local Fire Zone 3 (very high fire hazard severity zone) have additional requirements for a fire warning systems, automatic sprinkler systems, utility enclosures, water service, access roads and fire trails, and brush and vegetation control.
eventsFirestorm Commemoration Events
Firestorm memorial garden 
    There are several activities in October to commemorate the 1991 Oakland/Berkeley Firestorm. They are all free and open to the public.

  • October 20: 5:30pm at Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center (Tunnel Road and Caldecott Lane) - Firestorm 25 Remembrance Ceremony
  • October 20: 7pm at "The Hillside Club", 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley - Fire Prevention Progress Since 1991
crimeNorthside Armed Robberies
Crime map

    In the last week, there has been a cluster of armed robberies in the north campus area.  This a new and alarming series of events.  Berkeley and UC Police have increased patrols in the area, and believe that these incidents may be related.

    Police suggest taking the following precautions:
  • Travel in large groups when possible
  • Attempt to travel in well-lit, populated areas when possible
  • Be alert and aware of surroundings
  • Keep devices out of view as they are a popular robbery target
  • Calling 911 ASAP
    BPD can be reached with relevant information at 981-5742. UCPD can be reached at 642-6760.

earthquakeShakeout Earthquake Drill
Drop cover hold
   I encourage you to participate in the ShakeOut drill on October 20th at 10:20am.  This is a great, simple way to practice earthquake safety measures that only takes a couple of minutes out of your day. To participate, go to and pledge your participation in the drill, using "City of Berkeley" as the Parent Organization. Registered participants will receive information on what to do on the day of the drill, how to plan their drill and how to talk with others about earthquake preparedness.
    Neighborhood groups who register and participate as a "neighborhood group" on the ShakeOut website can count this towards the "Citywide Exercise" requirement in the Office of Emergency Service's Dumpster Program.

What to Do

At 10:20am practice what to do during an earthquake.  "Drop" by getting under a desk or table, "Cover" your head with one arm, and "Hold On" to the desk/table with the other arm.  If you can't get under a desk or table, drop to the floor and protect your head and neck with your arms.  Remain in this position for one minute.

     If you have questions about how to protect yourself during an earthquake in other situations, contact the Office of Emergency Services at More information on protective actions during earthquakes can be found at
    As part of the exercise, the City will activate the Berkeley Emergency Notification System (BENS), which is used to send information on actions needed to protect yourself during a life-threatening emergency. BENS is the primary system used to send this information, and everyone who spends time in the City of Berkeley is encouraged to sign up for the system at

    Those who have signed up for the system will receive a notification on October 20th.  If you have any problems with BENS on October 20th, please contact .  
    If you want to learn more about earthquake preparedness in the City of Berkeley, visit If you have any questions about the drill, contact or call 510-981-5514.

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Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
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