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Community meeting scheduled Wednesday on wildfire preparation

Evacuation drill set for May 15 in Rossmoor

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

(Wednesday, April 27) Due to technical difficulties, the start of the community wildfire meeting was not able to air live on Channel 28. The recorded program will air in its entirety at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27.

(Friday, April 22): Not that long ago in Northern California, there was a time of year – generally winter and spring – that wasn’t fire season.

Thanks to climate change and persistent drought, those days are over – wildfire season is, for all intents and purposes, a year-round thing. And the fires themselves have been getting bigger, more destructive and harder to contain.

Those factors are convincing reasons to be prepared for a wildfire, especially in a place like Rossmoor, surrounded by dry, brushy hills and with one vehicle entrance and exit to accommodate its 10,000-plus senior (that is, vulnerable) population.

Wildfire preparation will be the main subject of a community meeting on Wednesday, April 27, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Event Center. It will also be held over Zoom and will be broadcast live on Rossmoor TV.

Those wishing to join by Zoom can do so using this link (passcode: 295290) or by dialing one of these phone numbers for audio only 1-669-900-6833, 1-346-248-7799, 1-253-215-8782, 1-301-715-8592, 1-312-626-6799  or 1-646-876-9923 (Webinar ID: 896 5025 3031).

Information will be shared about wildfire response operations and emergency planning, including impacts on individual Rossmoor neighborhoods and about how Rossmoorians can prepare for wildfires, earthquakes and other major emergency situations.

The April 27 community meeting will take place ahead of the Sunday, May 15, wildfire evacuation drill that will involve participating residents in Rossmoor’s “WCR-002” evacuation zone. This zone comprises Mutual 68, covering residences on Grey Eagle Drive and the east end of Saklan Indian Drive on Rossmoor’s far southeastern end. Being near the “wildland urban interface” on the edge of Rossmoor, those residents are among Rossmoor’s more vulnerable to wildfire, said Tom Cashion, Rossmoor’s public safety manager.

The evacuation drill will also be a topic of discussion at the April 27 meeting. Representatives of supporting agencies, including the city of Walnut Creek (the lead agency), Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (ConFire), the county Office of Emergency Services, the Rossmoor Emergency Preparedness Organization (EPO), Community Emergency Response (CERT) teams from Rossmoor and elsewhere in Walnut Creek, Contra Costa County Animal Services and the American Red Cross, will be on hand to speak and to answer questions.

The May 15 evacuation drill is designed to test the abilities of all the responding agencies and groups involved to manage a large-scale evacuation. Carla Hansen, Walnut Creek’s deputy city manager, said a somewhat smaller evacuation drill was performed in Walnut Creek’s Lakewood neighborhood, off Ygnacio valley Road near Walnut Boulevard east of downtown involving 150 residents there. That drill, she said, was done with staging a similar one in Rossmoor in mind. The COVID pandemic delayed planning of the evac drill by about two years, she added.

Participating residents will gather first at the Tice Creek Fitness Center parking lot and then take one of two routes out of Rossmoor – either via Olympic and California boulevards or via Tice Valley Boulevard and South Broadway and Civic Drive to Ygnacio Valley Road – and, ultimately, a gathering place at a softball field at Heather Farm Park. There will likely be some final words for the resident “evacuees,” and a final debriefing by the various agencies coordinating the drill.

It wasn’t known at press time how many Mutual 68 residents had signed up to be part of the drill; signups will be taken at the April 27 meeting. But Cashion said, “We believe we’re going to have a strong showing from up there.”

Said Hansen, “If we get half or 75 percent of those residents participating, that should give us some success with lessons learned.”

The drill also will also an early test of the “zone system” in which Rossmoor was divided into eight sections to make a mass evacuation more orderly. WCR-002 – Mutual 68 – is one of those zones.

Though the population of Mutual 68 is but a small fraction of Rossmoor’s, Cashion said it’s best to “start out small” with an evac drill like this one. Running through a drill with a significant piece of Rossmoor’s population, he said, could be a dangerous undertaking.

Although only participating residents of Mutual 68 will take an active part in the May 15 drill, Cashion said all Rossmoor residents should benefit from the drill and its preparation and analysis, which will offer guidance on how other Rossmoor Mutuals – and individual households – should prepare for a wildfire or other emergency.

Fran Gibson is president of Rossmoor EPO, which focuses on helping Rossmoor residents be prepared for disasters and communicating with them as such events happen. The only Rossmoor resident on the evacuation drill’s planning committee, she noted that Rossmoor’s core demographic is the most vulnerable in most types of disasters.

“We hope to do everything we can to make this an educational event for the Rossmoor community,” Gibson said of the drill.

In the meantime, she recommends all Rossmoor residents compile a “grab and go” bag of water, food, simple tools and other items (, map out at least two evacuation routes from Rossmoor in case one of them ends up being blocked, and to establish an out-of-state contact to call.

A more comprehensive list of things to prepare for can be found here:

“I think this kind of drill will teach us to be able to evacuate for any event whatsoever,” Gibson said.