Wildfire is the single greatest physical threat to the Town of Los Gatos.
Over 3,000 homes are located in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ) in Los Gatos. For those remembering the Tunnel Fire in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills in 1991, 3,300 houses, apartments and condominiums were destroyed and 25 people died over 72 hours. All of this damage was done within a 2.5 square mile area.
One other sobering reality. While Los Gatos is a beautiful hillside community, there has never been so much underbrush and forest growth as there is in 2022. In fact, Los Gatos was identified as a higher risk for wildfire than the community of Paradise that was destroyed in the Camp Fire, November 2018 (“Where will the West's next deadly wildfire strike? The risks are everywhere!” The Arizona Republic - AZCentral article)
For residents of Los Gatos living within the VHFHSZ (also known as the Wildland Urban Interface), it has never been more important to prepare for wildfire. Now in the middle of a fourth dry season, we need to: 1) Get Ready; 2) Get Set; 3) Go (Cal Fire: readyforwildfire.org website).
While there are many helpful sites speaking to wildfire, here are the basics that every resident in the VHFHSZ needs to undertake sooner than later…like now!
1. Defensible Space: this is key to protecting your home and homes
around you from fire. Two main sources for wildfire ignition are
homes and cars. Get your defensible space in-place – it is the law.
In 2019, Los Gatos passed an ordinance that recognizes defensible
space across property lines. Work with your neighbors to ensure
the required protection (100 feet) around your home is in-place.
2. Harden Your Home: simply put, “take the necessary
measures to harden (prepare) your home to increase its
likelihood of survival when wildfire strikes” (Cal Fire).
1. 10-Minute, 2-Hour Checklists: develop checklists that will guide what needs to be taken from your home in the event of short notice evacuation.
2. Family Communication Plan: on one page, you will settle on a meeting location, out-of-area emergency contacts, other important contact numbers and documented evacuation routes.
3. Go Bags (Emergency Supply Kit): every family member - including pets - should have a Go Bag ready in the event of evacuation. See the link below for go bag essentials.
Leave as soon as evacuation is recommended by authorities. Do not wait for an evacuation order. Two words to live by, “Get Out!”
1. Pre-Evacuation: if there is time before evacuating your home, take these steps to ensure your home has the best chance of surviving a wildfire.
2. Refer to Family Communication Plan: quickly review your plan and send/resend to all family members so it will be readily available on mobile devices!
3. Go Bags! Ensure your Go Bags, including for pets, are in your vehicle.
Key Sources for Information
Alert SCC (Santa Clara County): AlertSCC is the County of Santa Clara’s official emergency alert and warning system.
PulsePoint: is a 911-connected app that can immediately inform you of emergencies occurring in your community. You can also be notified if you are CPR certified. Your assistance can be requested when CPR is needed nearby.