News Coverage - 2015 to 2018
"Oakland: Head-Royce School, neighbors at odds over permit", October 28, 2015 - East Bay Times
"26 years after firestorm, Oakland struggles with compliance in fire-prone hills", October 18, 2017 - East Bay Times
"Oakland runs out of money for crucial fire prevention program", February 18, 2018 - San Francisco Chronicle
From March to May 2017, the NSC contacted Head-Royce (emails to and from Head-Royce) with concerns about fire safety on the LCC property. Head-Royce responded that it would begin vegetation management, but provided no dates. After seeing no improvement, the NSC requested a copy of the Fire Department inspection reports from the City of Oakland. None was forthcoming for the LCC property, but the June 1, 2017 fire inspection report for the 14+ acre campus indicated that the Fire Department inspected the campus on the same day and found HRS "unsatisfactory" in complying with any of the City's vegetation fire regulations. The NSC contacted the Oakland Vegetation Fire Prevention Department in October 2017 and learned that the inspectors were unable to obtain HRS's cooperation. As of October 8, 2017, nearing the end of the fire season, dead tree branches, vegetation near abandoned or unoccupied wooden structures, a downed tree, and a split tree were still on the property.
During the North Bay fires in October 2017, the NSC sent a notice to neighbors warning of the fire danger on HRS's 23+ acres. On November 2, 2017, then entering into the rain season, the Fire Department decided HRS had met the "defensible space" vegetation requirements. However, in October 2017, an East Bay Times news article indicated that the Oakland Firesafe Council had done an inspection of hillside residential properties and found that they passed inspection when they should not have. The Firesafe Council:
|. . . noted that some of the properties identified in the survey, which has been sent to the Oakland City Council's Public Safety Committee, either passed inspections when they should not have, or at the time of the survey were still waiting a second or third inspection, which could indicate a shortage in fire staff. Benson believes the staff shortage is the culprit in many cases. |
"The fear is the city is telling people properties are safe," she said. "In fact, the city has left them very vulnerable to fires."
The City Auditor's report issued for the February 13, 2018 City Council Public Safety Committee stated that the inspection accuracy and enforcement need improvement. On page 3, the Auditor reports that because residents voted to non-renew the assessment parcel tax used to fund the wildfire prevention district, the revenue for this task was significantly reduced by 'approximately 1.8 million annually, further constraining resources targeted to wildland fire prevention." The fund balance as of June 2017 was down to $834,000. By February 18, 2018, it was down to $69,950 with $600,000 allocated for the next fiscal year, but not available until July 2018, well into the fire season.