Weekend fire danger warning prompts park closures and reminder to prepare

Dried leaves and tall grasses blanket Bay Area hills and are at risk of burning if even the tiniest spark is fanned by wind gusts that could reach up to 45 miles an hour this weekend.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning through Sunday night that includes most of the Bay Area's nine counties.

That high fire danger prompted officials in the city of Fairfield to shut down Rockville Hills Park and other open spaces through Monday morning.

"Each entrance will have a notification and the gates will be closed," said Battalion Chief Nick Eisan with the Fairfield Fire Department

Eisan says the closures help reduce the risk of any sparks caused by humans from BBQs, idling cars, or other heat sources.

"We are very unique. We do have a lot of the wildland urban interface. So you'll have an open space like this and then right down the street, you'll have a neighborhood," said Eisan.

Some park users were surprised by the closures, saying fire danger is not top of mind with the cool temperatures  

"We're used to the park getting closed down when it's hot and when the winds are coming in so this time of year when it's a little cooler and we just had some rain, I'm surprised they're closing down for the weekend," said Julie Hedrick, a Fairfield resident who was out in the park with her husband walking their dogs.

Officials say with changing weather patterns, wildfires have become bigger and more unpredictable.

"We don't necessarily need to have hot temperatures. It's what precedes those temperatures that really drives what we do and that's the high winds and relatively low humidity," said Berkeley Fire Department's Deputy Chief Keith May.

May says the city has 13 of their 15 new alert speaker systems in place, that can be put to use in case a fire breaks out over the weekend.

May says the city held an emergency preparedness meeting Friday morning.

"We meet with those who will be on duty during the period as well as our partners, which was really important this time because there is a game at UC this weekend," said May.

That Cal game Saturday at Memorial Stadium could draw tens of thousands of people to the Berkeley Hills. 
City officials recommend signing up for phone alerts from Alameda County or wherever you might be this weekend.

"Make sure you leave your phones on so that you can receive the alert. Don't put it on do not disturb if you can during a red flag event," said May.

Officials also advise that you: Make sure your cell phone is charged.

Check that your car's gas tank is full.

Have a go-bag packed with essentials and any medication by the front door in case of an immediate evacuation.