Neighborhood organizes evacuation drill for residents

2015 Wildfire Preparedness Day Logo

by Nicole Esan, NFPA Public Affairs Intern 

Briggs Terrace, a small, isolated neighborhood in the city of La Crescenta, CA, encompassing approximately 350 homes, is at high risk for being trapped in the event of wildfire because residents only have a single way in and out of the neighborhood. In honor of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this year on May 2, the La Crescenta Valley Fire Safe Council and resident volunteers organized an evacuation drill under the leadership of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the Briggs Terrace community. The project was one of 65 chosen from 338 applicants to receive a State Farm funding award for $500.

“The idea is to get people out,” said Judy Turner, project volunteer and Briggs Terrace resident. “We want to get people to meet and get to know their neighbors. There’s a safety factor in knowing who your neighbors are.”

Wildfire Prep Day in La CrescentaThe idea for an evacuation drill was initiated by resident Kim Mattersteig about six years ago, who first voiced her concern for La Crescenta’s safety in the event of an emergency with only one way out, just prior to The Station wildfire in CA in 2009, which burned nearly 252 square miles of the Angeles National Forest.

The community of Briggs Terrace also had the support of a youth group made of volunteers from Crescenta Valley High School. Prom Plus, a group of high school students dedicated to the notion of a safer alternative to after-prom partying, participated in the project by going door-to-door to talk with residents and stress the importance of participating in the drill. The group was organized by students after one of their peers was murdered in 1991 at an unsupervised post prom hotel party.

Prior to this drill, residents of La Crescenta were asked to plan ahead and participate by using their local newspaper, the CV Weekly. The idea was to get residents to look down their street and approach the “weak link” on the block and encourage them to take a look at their property for wildfire hazards.  Students also stuffed flyers about the drill in the newspaper and had volunteers from the sheriff’s department and the fire department walk up the hillside to deliver the papers to residents. The paper also ran an article before and after the event.

“We understand that part of the problem is residents with families and their busy weekend schedules,” said Turner. “We are very happy with the turnout. We had roughly 100 residents participate.”