Turnouts on Grizzly Peak Boulevard have been blocked off to reduce fire risk in response to several incidents of people setting off fireworks in the area.
As Grizzly Peak Boulevard is in both the city of Berkeley and Oakland, this is an interjurisdictional effort, with the city councils and police departments working alongside the Oakland Fire Department, UC Berkeley and other institutions to minimize fire threats.
“Wildfire does not know boundaries,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “Wildfire does not know whether it is in Oakland or Berkeley. We need to all be on the same page responding to this potential threat in a collaborative way.”
UC Berkeley provided eucalyptus tree trunks to build barriers on most of the turnouts, according to Wengraf. Other turnouts are longer and will be blocked by temporary fencing.
According to Michael Hunt, Oakland Fire Department spokesperson, there have been at least eight grass and vegetation fires in the Grizzly Peak area since June 1, several of which were caused by fireworks.
“We want to minimize the opportunity for wildfires,” said Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb. “Most people go to the turnouts to take a look at the view, but it only takes even one person to do something stupid to cause a big fire that will harm thousands of people and destroy a lot of property.”
UCPD spokesperson Sabrina Reich said in an email that the barriers have had a noticeable effect in deterring vehicles at the turnouts.
Other measures that have been taken to reduce the threat of fire around Grizzly Peak Boulevard include additional “No Stopping” signage in the area and increased night patrolling, according to a Sept. 16 Oakland Police Department press release.
Hunt said in an email that electric signs reading “Extreme Fire Danger – All Turnouts Closed – 24 hrs/day” will also be posted at intersections.
According to Hunt, the barriers are necessary because Grizzly Peak turnouts have been extremely overcrowded, which he partially attributes to shutdowns of other activities due to COVID-19. This overcrowding makes it difficult for emergency vehicles, such as fire engines and ambulances, to reach potential incidents in an efficient manner.
Grizzly Peak turnouts have seen a number of physical and sexual assaults in recent months, as well as incidents of drunk driving, Hunt said in the email.
“(The barriers are) a significant precaution that we have instituted that we hope people will understand, take very seriously, and adhere to,” Hunt said in the email. “We as responders can do a lot in the aftermath, but we really look to the community to do everything they can to prevent wildfires in the first place.”