Garden Against Fire!

Landscaping for Wildfire ProtectionThe Los Gatos Library will host an online class, Landscaping for Wildfire Protection

Coming up Thursday, September 24th from 6-7pm Pacific.

Does your garden fight fires? With fire season growing longer and fiercer each year with devastating losses, you might be wondering what you can do to lower risks and protect your property against wildfires. Especially if you live near one of the Bay Area’s beautiful greenspaces! Join the Los Gatos Library with speaker Barbara Hunt, UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, to learn about how wildfires spread and how to landscape to protect your home, from hardscapes to fire-resistant plants. This is a free lecture aimed at California homeowners but open to all.

For more information and the Zoom link, please view the event page.

Join the event on Facebook and set a reminder.

Want to learn more about fire in Los Gatos? Check out some of my other posts on this topic:

Los Gatos Fire Risk

Wildfire Evacuation Route Signs Being Installed (2016)

Fighting Fire With … Wine

A History of Los Gatos Fires and the Los Gatos Fire Department

Combined fire map with evacuation zones

A combined fire map with evacuation zones is now available! As the various fire complexes engulf the San Francisco Bay Area, the Monterey Bay Area, and much of the state, it’s been challenging to see regional maps since Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties were using Garmin Maps and Santa Clara and other counties were using Google map. Yesterday I found a new combined fire map with the evacuation zones published on Garmin and am happy to share that link with you here.

 

Combined fire map with evacuation areas shows

 

There are disclaimers, of course, as you log into the site. Because it is collecting info from several counties, that info may not be as updated as from the county in question.  The CZU fire, though, now has warning zones in Santa Clara County (from the heights of Montebello Road in Cupertino down to Redwood Estates in Los Gatos), so creating a map that would include Santa Clara County makes sense.

For me, this is  far more helpful than a list of roads and directions such as “east of xyz road” etc. It appears to be updated frequently

Los Gatos fire risk

What is the Los Gatos fire risk? This morning a good friend of mine shared a map app that is very helpful for understanding any California property’s wildfire odds. Buildings are given a color code from blue (for low risk) to dark red (for very high risk). With the fires raging in the Diablo range on the east side (from about Fremont to Gilroy), the Santa Cruz Mountains, and many other areas of the Golden State, some folks are getting nervous – even if their particular property is not close to the infernos or in a particularly dangerous location.

If you do live in the Los Gatos or Santa Cruz Mountains, you do know that the chances of fire are elevated over more densely populated areas.  If your home is close to the hills or large open space that stretches into the foothills, it’s not a surprise that your  risk is increased over those in the flat lands.  What is your Los Gatos fire risk? Have a look at the DefensibleApp website and see what it says about your California location.

 

Los Gatos fire risk map

Wildfire Evacuation Route signs being installed

Wildfire Evacuation Route in Los GatosThe Town of Los Gatos takes its responsibility for minimizing risk from flood, fire, earthquake, or other disasters seriously.  A few months ago, I began to notice “Flood evacuation route” signs.  First I noticed it along Blossom Hill Road, close to the Highway 17 over crossing, and later on Lark Avenue.  (Lexington Reservoir  is located further down the highway and a break in the dam would bring tons of water screaming down the highway 17 corridor.)  Seemed like a wise idea, given that we have that and also Vasona Lake right here.

Additionally, though, last week I saw a “Wildfire Evacuation Route” sign too.  It was located on Prospect Avenue and Kimble Avenue, across from the new Sorellas housing development which is currently under construction by Summerhill (formerly the Holy Names Sisters convent and Casa Maria Montessori School).

If you live in a woodsy or mountainous area, the odds are good that your property is located in a zone earmarked as high risk for wildfires, and you’ve been notified that brush must be cleared 100 feet away from your house or structure annually to create “defensible space”. (Some of the best Los Gatos real estate can be found in those areas!) What isn’t always so apparent is where to go in the case of a wildfire.  These new signs should help to improve safety in case of a serious fire.

You may not know that the town has some helpful resources online, too.  You can find them here:

http://www.losgatosca.gov/1359/Fire-Safety-and-Wildfire-Preparedness

CalFire flier on creating 100′ of defensible space around your home (pdf)

Other helpful info:

Flood evacuation information on the town’s website

72-Hour Emergency Preparedness Kit Checklist (pdf)

“Los Gatos Prepared” revised

Statement of purpose on the Los Gatos Prepared page:
Empowering Community Self-Sufficiency towards the ultimate goal of every resident and business in Los Gatos having the awareness, skills, and resources necessary to be self-sufficient in the event of an  earthquake, fire, flood, or possible flu pandemic

Los Gatos Fires and the Los Gatos Fire Department

fire articleLos Gatos Fire Department History

Fire was a major danger in Los Gatos in the 1800s. Buildings were made of wood, including sidewalks (think boardwalk), and most appliances – light, heat, cooking – still used an open flame. Fire was a greater, more present danger than local wildlife (cougars and grizzlies). In its early years, the town relied on bucket brigades, finally graduating to two volunteer Hose Companies and a Hook and Ladder Company in around 1886. The Cold Spring Water Company of Los Gatos filed to incorporate in December 1890 with the stated purpose to “introduce water for domestic and fire purposes into the town of Los Gatos.”. In 1888 the town passed an ordinance to provide for the organization of a dedicated Fire Department, and perhaps just in time. A major cartridge fire in July of 1891 leveled many of the town’s businesses, and saw the shift of the business district from the east bank to the west bank of the Los Gatos Creek – and it has remained so to this day.

While many major fires destroyed homes, stores, hotels, and even an opera house, the worst is often said to be the 1901 fire.

Read more

Vista del Monte Arson

November 10, 2011

Yesterday Sheila Sanchez of Los Gatos Patch wrote a news article on the Los Gatos fire & dog rescue in the Vista del Monte neighborhood and relayed that it appears to be a case of arson.  She begins:

Santa Clara County Fire investigators are saying a fire that broke out the evening of Oct. 28 at a single-story home located at 194 Vista Del Monte is arson and that damages to the property are estimated at nearly $300,000.

Please read the whole article, “Arson Suspected in Dog-Rescue Fire“, on Los Gatos Patch.

Campbell Fire Near Los Gatos Border Fills Sky with Smoke

June 13, 2008

View of part of the 2 alarm blaze as seen from Highway 880/17

Tonight another fire, this one smaller but more local, darkened the skies over the western part of the Santa Clara Valley with smoke. At about 3pm, a grass fire broke out close to the onramp from San Tomas Expressway in Campbell onto Highway 17 southbound toward Los Gatos and Santa Cruz. By 4:30 or so, when I drove through, the plume of smoke rising was quite substantial. And by evening, the air was positively eerie in Los Gatos with strange tints coloring the sky and the landscape.

View of the smokey sky from Belwood of Los Gatos on June 13, 2008 - Photo by Clair Handy

The late afternoon and early evening sky was a taupe color in places. Light coming in through the windows of our home was tinted a tungsten type of hue. This photo taken by Clair Handy from Bacigalupi Drive in Los Gatos (in Belwood of Los Gatos).

View of the smoke-filled sky in Belwood of Los Gatos on June 13, 2008. Photo by Clair Handy.

Another neighborhood view in Belwood.

The sun turned to a bright orange ball against the tinge of brown from the grass fire in Campbell.(Photo by Clair Handy)

View from the Handy Family backyard in Los Gatos – the wind made the smoke-filled areas very distinct from the cleaner sections of sky.

View of the palm trees on Harwood Road in Los Gatos with the strange backdrop of a smokey sky.

A (non-enhanced) view of nearby palm trees. The whole sky was just creepy looking.All of these pictures are unedited except for cropping, of course.

Sunset as viewed on Bacigalupi Drive in east Los Gatos on June 13, 2008. Amazing sky.

My sister, Barb, is visiting for a few days and she commented that the sky reminded of of when Mt St. Helen’s blew in 1980. I was not around for that, but heard plenty about it from my many friends in Washington and Oregon. I don’t think it was quite so dark, but it was certainly odd looking tonight.

Mary Pope-Handy