‘Our awareness is heightened’: Golden Oaks residents discuss Wednesday fire in South County (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)
Golden Oaks Association Vice President Bill Checkvala says that, while the neighborhood association has promoted fire safety to residents in the past, efforts will be ramped up even further after the 5.5-acre vegetation fire which occurred Wednesday evening off Brewer Road in South County.
“The board is very aware,” said Checkvala on the neighborhood association’s approach to fire safety. “And, after an incident like this, our awareness is heightened even further.”
“Under the advice that the Fire Safe Council and the Code Red people and the county offers, per that, we will do the necessary preparations so that we can evacuate a lot more quickly and with time to gather all the important things that we do not want to lose.”
Checkvala said previous efforts by the neighborhood association to promote fire safety have included keeping communication with residents through social media, email, and its website, in addition to the association president, Debbie Porter, pushing to keep vegetation under control at the side of the roads.
“You have to do certain things to keep the neighborhood safe, and to that end, every year we do at least two sprayings of the sides of the roads and/or weed-eating to keep the weeds down on the edges of the roads, and I usually have a road crew do some trimming back of bushes,“ said Porter.
“It obviously burned and there was a lot of smoke for a while, but they got a handle on it, thank God,” said Porter on the fire, during which she said she was communicating with residents online and through phone calls for around two hours.
Porter said she has the email of virtually every resident of the neighborhood of around 120 homes, and in response to Wednesday’s fire, communicated to that contact list the importance of being aware of possible exits aside from Brewer Road, encouraging them to familiarize themselves by driving around the neighborhood.
“It’s a good wake-up call for people in here to have a fire like that,” said Porter, explaining that residents were concerned about how to get out while the Brewer Road exit was temporarily closed.
Going forward, said Checkvala, residents will be further encouraged to sign up to receive CodeRED Emergency Alerts.
“After this, we will double down on our encouragement of people to be with the red alert system, because everybody has mobile phones,” he said. “And they’ll send you a text alert, they’ll send you a phone alert, so if for some reason you’re not available or checking your emails, you will get notified.”
“We got a call saying, ‘Be ready,’” said Golden Oaks resident Steve Markham, on the information he received Wednesday through the emergency alert system, although he ultimately did not have to evacuate.
“They were on top of it, which is encouraging,” said Markham on the efforts of first responders Wednesday, noting that numerous fire engines were visible as he drove through the thick smoke at the scene of the firefighting efforts while exiting the neighborhood.
As of Thursday, the cause of the fire remained under investigation, according to Cal Fire Public Information Officer Mary Eldridge.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: Cal Fire