Moraga residents to practice evacuation drill

The potential dangers stemming from wildfire evacuations will be explored when a small East Bay town holds an evacuation drill this weekend. This will be only a test, but it will speak volumes about problems and choke points likely to occur if a real wildfire erupts.

The main drag between Moraga and Orinda is the two-lane, mostly narrow shouldered Moraga Way.  17,000 Moragans would use Moraga Way as the main evacuation route to Highway 24. On December 15, between 7 and 8 a.m., Moraga Way will be one way only as residents practice an emergency drill to evacuate town. Many metal and electronic sides were posted in town giving folks a week's notice.

"That's the only information we have are these signs. I'm thinking maybe it's emergency personnel, getting practicing to direct traffic in case of an evacuation but we really don't know what that means," said Moraga resident Sally Tubach.

"Moraga is kind of an area where there's a very few places in and out of town. As we've experienced, with Santa Rosa and the Camp Fire, one thing can lead to another and it can get kind of out of hand very quickly," said Moraga resident Patrick Artriaga.

People to be evacuated have already received door hangar notices advising them of the drill.

"In an emergency, it's more than likely that we're going to need to evacuate certain parts of town. We've already divided the town of Moraga into 23 evacuation zones. So what this is gonna do is test our ability to evacuate one of these zones in the event of an emergency," said Moraga police John King.

The only district in Moraga that will actually be evacuated is Moraga Country Club. There are 521 homes there, many on cul de sacs, with only one road in and out.

"We have been working since last year with our community with block captains. Block captains are homeowners who have a range of 10 to 15 homes they help evacuate or communicate with their homeowners," said Moraga Country Club General Manager Ron Haas.

There will be another drill in Orinda at a future date followed by others. "We definitely want to avoid a situation where everybody thinks they need to go at once where maybe only 150 people need to go instead of 17,000. We're going to have to depend on people to evacuate on their own and be safe," said King.

As we learned in Santa Rosa and Paradise, a quick exit saves lives.