Evacuation drill planned in La Crescenta

LA CRESCENTA — Fire officials Thursday announced plans for an Aug. 1 evacuation drill for residents in the Briggs Terrace area of La Crescenta in response to a spate of fires in the Angeles National Forest.

The drill and proceeding public fire safety meeting were part of a report to the Crescenta Valley Town Council Thursday night in which officials said years of drought and dry vegetation, combined with numerous fires in the surrounding mountains, have brought fire season to the forefront early this summer.

The evacuation drill will be conducted in conjunction with the town council, Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station and the Crescenta Valley Fire Safe Council.

“It will allow residents to practice and become aware of what happens when they are asked to evacuate,” said Stephanie English, Los Angeles County Fire Department Division III spokeswoman.

Residents above Rockdale Street in the Briggs Terrace area will be most directly effected by the drill, but all community members are invited to join at a safety meeting conducted after the evacuation is complete. English did not reveal the exact location of the center because, she said, the drill needed to be as realistic as possible.

The center's location will be announced the morning of the evacuation.

“We will have sheriff deputies and explorers that will be able to direct anyone interested in attending the fire safety discussion to the evacuation center. All you have to do is drive up Briggs Avenue and ask a deputy where you need to meet,” English said.

The Briggs Terrace area comprises neighborhoods of narrow, winding roads beset with heavy vegetation. In 2007, a fire destroyed a home that was surrounded by trees and vegetation. While 15 fire units responded to the Shields Street home, there was confusion among residents about whether they would be evacuated.

“That was 15 units for one home, imagine if more homes were effected. Our Fire Safety Council has identified 500 homes in that area that are vulnerable,” said Roger Young, president of the fire council.

He and La Crescenta resident Kim Mattersteig have been the driving force behind the evacuation plan that began with a meeting in April. Mattersteig, a resident of Briggs Terrace and an insurance agent, organized the initial neighborhood meeting. English attended the meeting and heard worried neighbors speak about the fire danger in their area and demand to know what type of evacuation plan was in place.

The Shields fire was brought up several times, with residents voicing concerns about lack of communication from deputies and firefighters.

Mattersteig and Young worked with safety officials to get the drill approved — not an easy task, Young said.

“We followed up with sheriff, fire and [Community Emergency Response Team] and it was made clear from the residents that this was important and there was pressure to do it sooner than later,” he said.

Coordinating and getting information out to the public is key to the preparation of the drill, English said.

“We will be sending out notices to the residents of the evacuation area and surrounding neighborhoods. We will use the telephone emergency alert system that is managed by the Fire Safe Council, and we will utilize the reverse 411 program,” English said.

The drill is expected to begin around 9 a.m.

“Sheriff and Sheriff Explorers will go door to door to strongly advise the residents to leave. But the evacuation is only a short segment component of the drill,” English said.

Residents will then be told where they can evacuate and will be advised to drive out of the neighborhood and meet at the center to discuss what worked, and what did not.

“Everyone is invited to that meeting. In a fire there are no unincorporated areas, no city, and no boundaries. La Cañada, La Crescenta, the Glendale portion of Crescenta Valley, Sunland-Tujunga — if there is a fire in Burbank you all become vulnerable,” English said.

For information on the drill contact English at (661) 254-9668, or e-mail her at SEnglish@lacofd.org.


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