The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will hear how the Bay Area's third-largest county is prepared for what experts say could be one of the worst fire seasons in state history.
Members of Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services and the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District will make presentations to the board at its regular meeting this week.
A dry winter, years of record-setting high temperatures thanks to climate change, and a pattern of massive record-setting fire seasons all point to a rough 2021. State reservoirs are way down, and water agencies are already implementing conservation measures.
The state has already experienced 900 more wildfires than it did at the same point last year, when smashed previous records of total acreage burned. More than 4% of California burned last year. Many California fire agencies started peak summer staffing June 1, a month earlier than normal.
Contra Costa's emergency services manager Rick Kovar will discuss how events of the past year -- including the pandemic, public safety power outages, civil unrest, and last year's large fires -- will affect the county's preparation this year.
According to a staff report, Kovar will also cover shelter operations and adjusted response time during what looks like the waning stages of COVID-19. He'll also discuss plans to manage multiple events at the same time, and the county's new Emergency Operations Center.
The report includes a "what to expect" section, saying that based on weather reports, the county will likely see a "hot, dry summer with red flag warnings already in play. Wildfires. PG&E PSPS (public safety power shutoffs) events and potential for brownouts, smoke/bad air due to state wildfires. Limited Water resources in specific locations as drought progresses."
The report also says previous experience says further water rationing may be necessary, and large property owners and livestock owners "may seek assistance." Power outages may affect cell towers and COVID-19 will still be a factor.
Deputy fire chief Aaron McAlister will brief the board on how the board is preparing, including training, fire trail maintenance, weed abatement and enforcement, coordination with other agencies, and live fire training. He'll also go over the county's most dangerous fire zones, resources, and the threat of illegal fireworks.
The board will also hear from Brian Garcia, a warning coordination meteorologist from the National Weather Service.
As planning and training continues, county residents can sign up for community warning alerts at https://cwsalerts.com/. More information can be found at many local government websites, including cocosheriff.org and cccfpd.org.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervises meets virtually at 9 a.m. Tuesday, at https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/.