By Mary O’KEEFE
Briggs Terrace residents are being asked to participate in a fire evacuation drill on Saturday. The drill is sponsored by Los Angeles Country Fire Dept., with support from the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept., CV Ready and CV Fire Safe Council, however, the idea for the evacuation came from a local resident, Kim Mattersteig.
Mattersteig is no stranger to this drill; she had requested and organized a similar one just a few weeks before the 2009 Station Fire.
For the purposes of the drill, Briggs Terrace includes streets off Briggs Avenue from Rockdell Street and eastbound on Shields Street and all streets above. The area is unique because it has only one way in and out.
Just prior to the Station Fire, Mattersteig noticed how dry the vegetation along the Angeles National Forest was and feared for the worst; little did she know in only a few weeks after the 2009 drill, the largest fire in the history of the ANF would begin.
Presently the conditions are dry due to the drought, but the Station Fire cleared all the old growth forest and vegetation. But there are still fire issues including residential dangers.
“There has been a significant amount of residential turnover in the Terrace area. Experiencing [a fire] isn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” Mattersteig said. “It’s important for everyone to be prepared for any type of disaster- – wildfire, earthquake or house fire. Any of these disasters could cause the need for evacuation.”
The voluntary evacuation will begin at 9 a.m. and go to 11 a.m. LACoFD engines will drive through neighborhoods. Neighbors will hear sirens. The LASD/Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s patrol units will also travel through the neighborhoods. Last Saturday, April 25, LACoFD Explorers and CV Sheriff Explorers walked Briggs Terrace and left information that included a letter from LACoFD explaining the drill, as well as information on how to prepare for the evacuation.
As the residents evacuate, they will be told by LASD and LACoFD where the evacuation center is and where to go for debriefing just like in a real evacuation.
The 2009 drill had a high participation rate, and that was before most had dealt with a devastating fire.
“I expect an even greater turnout this time,” Mattersteig said. “There is a lot of positive conversation throughout the Terrace about the drill; I believe we will have a great turnout. On May 2, our Briggs Terrace Evacuation Drill will be part of an annual Wild Fire Preparation Day with the National Fire Protection Agency. The NFPA had never heard of a drill as ours – that makes me very proud.”
Organizers of the evacuation drill took what they learned from the Station Fire and included it in Saturday’s drill. This time, as opposed to the 2009 drill, Animal Control will be at the debriefing (in a location to be announced during the drill) to talk to families about animal care in the event of a real evacuation.
The evacuation will affect about 500 Briggs Terrace residents. The evacuation is expected to last for about an hour.