By Mary O’KEEFE
Residents living in the Briggs Terrace area of La Crescenta can rest a little easier after Saturday’s fire evacuation drill.
Briggs Terrace is a unique area with only one way in and out. The concern of residents has been what to do in case of an emergency when evacuation is required. Resident Kim Mattersteig first voiced this concern about six years ago just prior to the Station Fire, which devestated the Angeles National Forest.
Back then Mattersteig looked at the mountain behind her home and worried about the dry vegetation. Knowing that it had been a very long time since the area had been hit with a wildfire, she felt that it was not a situation of if but when a fire would occur. In 2009 she contacted the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. and the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept. to plan a fire evacuation drill, which was conducted in August 2009, just weeks prior to the Station Fire.
Several months ago Mattersteig looked again at the dry vegetation in the mountains and at the trees that line the local Briggs Terrace neighborhood. Her worries now included the new families who have moved into the area and are unfamiliar with the fire danger, and those residents who have become complacent since 2009 thinking the area burned in the Station Fire and fire no longer poses a threat.
For the drill, LACoFD and LASD were contacted along with Crescenta Valley Fire Safe Council and CV Ready – two organizations that had not existed when the 2009 evacuation drill was planned.
On Saturday residents were ready for the drill. They were given information from organizers as well as from L.A. County Animal Control and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) on how to be prepared for the next disaster, whether it be fire, earthquake or wind event.
“These drills have been done in other communities but they are not common,” said Gregory Hisel, LACoFD assistant fire chief, Division III. “Briggs Terrace has limited egress [which is] an increased threat.”
As for the Station Fire burning away any future threat of wildfire, Hisel said there is always a concern when there are dead fuels and live fuels and less moisture.
“It is great that the Briggs Terrace community is participating [in this event],” he said.
There were several handouts from LACoFD that offered information on how to prepare to evacuate and tips on how to make your home safer from fire.
Hisel said it was important to be proactive and prepared for any disaster.
Saturday’s event was not as well attended as the previous drill.
“I am very happy, however, with the [number of] people who did turn out,” Mattersteig said. “My concern is for the new residents who have moved into the terrace and for those who don’t understand the true risk.”