Creating ‘defensible zones’ kept Belmont Hills fire small

The red dot indicates the location of the fire on Monday, Sept. 21.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The day after a fire broke out in Belmont’s San Juan canyon, forcing the evacuation of 40 homes, the City Council heard an update from fire officials about the city’s attempts to quell wildfire threats to the town.

On Monday at 3:44 p.m., a fire was reported to firefighters, who arrived within minutes and began working to put out the fire. However, the evacuation continued until 9 p.m. so firefighters could effectively fight the fire that charred two acres.

Fire Marshal Bob Marshall said one of the big successes of Monday’s fire is that residents in the area had listened to fire officials, who had told them about creating “defensible spaces” by removing dead and dying plants, using drought-tolerant and fire-resistant plants and removing dry leaves and twigs from the roof, rain gutters and within 100 feet of your yard.

Because of that and cooperative weather conditions, the fire was put out and property damage was limited to 40 feet of retaining wall and 60 feet of fence.

Councilman Charles Stone asked Marshall how the city is controlling the growth of brush in San Juan Canyon and other high-risk areas of Belmont.

Marshall said that since a state of disaster was declared because of the CZU fire in southern San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz counties, fire departments in the county can apply to get money to help reduce wildfire risk, which is something San Mateo Consolidated intends to do.

Also, in the next month or so, the county will be rolling out a program called ZoneHaven, which will show evacuation routes and who in town is being evacuated in case of any emergency, including a fire.

The program was used during the CZU fire and for a while the program had the only website people could access when the CalFire website went down.

As a result of ZoneHaven rolling out, fire and safety officials will be asking residents to “know your zone,” as Marshall put it, to know what number “zone” you live, work or go to school in if there are evacuations, so then there is not a question of who should be leaving the area or not.
When ZoneHaven is formally rolled out, there will be links to sign up for it on the city’s website.