Cal Fire was one of the state agencies that spoke at the wildfire town hall meeting on April 4. Photo courtesy of Jim Gillio.

San Benito County residents eagerly gathered at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area community room on April 4 to hear from a panel on wildfire preparation and prevention in  a town hall meeting hosted by the San Benito Fire Safe Council.

Council Chairman Bob Connolly kicked off the morning by presenting on some of the most recent devastating wildfires to hit California, including last year’s Camp Fire.“Our mission is to make sure communities know how to prevent and prepare for wildfire,”  Connolly said of the council.

Scott Soares, an environmental scientist with the state vehicular recreation area, gave an overview of Hollister Hill’s wildfire management and prevention plan. “The state park policy is to prevent all unwanted, human-caused fire,” he said. He mentioned the park has water tenders, a type 6 fire engine and dozers on hand if a fire were to break out in the park.  “We also have [a] cattle grazing program to help reduce fuels,” Soares said.

Cal Fire San Benito-Monterey Unit Battalion Chief Aaron Young talked about target areas such as San Juan Canyon, Highway 101, and Cienega Road. “Cal Fire’s number one priority is fuel management,” Young said.

Cal Fire unit forester Jonathan Pangburn gave an overview of the agency’s 45-day report to Gov. Gavin Newsom in response to Executive Order N-05-19. “The report identifies high-priority fuel reduction projects in California with three being in the San Benito-Monterey unit,” he said. Those high-priority projects are the San Juan Canyon Fuel Reduction, Laurel Springs-Hennicksons Ridge and Palo Colorado Fire Access Roads.

Pangburn also spoke about the Ready, Set, Go! Campaign, which advises on wildfire preparedness. The campaign has three steps:

  • Be Ready: Create and maintain defensible space and harden your home against flying embers.
  • Get Set: Prepare your family and home ahead of time for the possibility of having to evacuate.
  • Be Ready to GO!: Take the evacuation steps necessary to give your family and home the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

At the town hall, Kris Mangano, emergency medical services coordinator with the San Benito County Office of Emergency Services, encouraged attendees to sign up with the county’s Code Red emergency notification system.

“Signing up for Code Red alerts really helps during an emergency,” Mangano said.

PG&E public safety specialist Pam Perdue touched on the company’s community wildfire protection program and how PG&E is taking action regarding wildfire prevention. “We have over 5,000 employees inspecting transmission in T2 and T3 areas,” Perdue said.

Said Connolly: “The community needs to do their part so local and state agencies can be successful.”

Other related BenitoLink articles:

Landowners aim to fight fire with fire

HFD and CalFire hot on the heels of hometown blazes