Midpen generally has multiple active Wildland Fire Resiliency Program vegetation management projects going at any given time, year-round. The importance of this proactive work was underscored on September 12, when a small fire started by a noninjury vehicle accident on Page Mill Road near Skyline Boulevard spread through the county right-of-way along the roadside and into Midpen’s Coal Creek Open Space Preserve.
Midpen rangers were first on scene and began emergency response. A Cal Fire helicopter stopped the forward spread with several water drops. Midpen maintenance staff provided Midpen’s water tender to support Cal Fire firefighters on the ground, who were able to put the fire out before it reached half an acre.
Had the fire continued further into the preserve, it would have reached a nearby robust shaded fuel break that Midpen constructed this year as part of Midpen’s Wildland Fire Resiliency Program. The fuel break was 500 feet up the hill from the fire incident. Our rigorous science-based prioritization process identified this area for treatment due to its proximity to other vegetation management projects that it could help build upon and enhance, its location near Page Mill Road which is an important emergency community evacuation route and at the recommendation of local fire agencies.
Wildland fire prevention, preparation and response are part of Midpen's ongoing land stewardship. We reduce wildland fire severity and risk in our region by managing vegetation in the preserves with a focus on ecological health and wildland fire resilience, in alignment with our mission and policies.
“This incident gives me confidence that our prioritization and vegetation management project locations are where they should be,” Skyline Area Manager Craig Beckman said.
Shaded fuel breaks are forested areas where low tree branches and understory vegetation are thinned to slow potential fires and keep them low to the ground. Enough tree canopy is retained to maintain shade, reduce the potential for rapid regrowth of understory plants and minimize erosion. Shaded fuel breaks give firefighters a strategic location to slow and stop wildland fire.
The Coal Creek Preserve shaded fuel break was thankfully not needed in this instance due to the favorable weather conditions and quick work by first responders, including Midpen staff, but it was in place and ready to help keep this and any potential roadside fires from reaching Skyline Boulevard.