Could it Happen Here?


In early October, a series of fires swept through the Wine Country; aided by strong winds and arid conditions. Thousands of acres of land were scorched by these fires that burned through everything in their paths. When such an event happens only an hour or so away from Burlingame, those who live near can only wonder whether or not such an event could ever happen here, and what they can do to help prevent it.

While natural disasters are always a possibility no matter the place, the fires in Santa Rosa and the surrounding areas were strengthened by the local conditions

“The weather, geographical and topographical conditions really potentiate the fire significance there,” said John Kammeyer, Fire Chief of Central County Fire Department. With 28 years of experience, Kammeyer is well versed on issues involving fire. The CCFD, responsible for Burlingame, Hillsborough and Millbrae, sent up 3 trucks and 12 people to help in the fight against the growing fires.

One place hit particularly hard by the fires was Sonoma. Many were forced to evacuate before the sun rose in order to escape the fires. Paul Bohdzia, BHS sophomore and Burlingame resident, was one of thoses fortunate enough to evade the Sonoma fires, despite being in the area when the disaster struck.

“My brother and I were woken up by our friend’s mother at 3 a.m., and I instantly remember smelling smoke. At first I was really confused, but then she told us that fires had broken out in the middle of the night and we had to leave immediately,” Bohdzia said of the experience.

As fortunate as Bohdzia was, many were not so. Great numbers of people were trapped in the area once the roads were closed off due to rapidly spreading flames.

“We drove without saying anything because our lungs hurt so much from the smoke. We passed over a hill, and instantly everyone started to panic. There was a fire blazing out of control 20 feet from the roadside with at least 15 firefighters trying to stop it,” Bohdzia said.

With such events happening so close, Burlingame residents can only imagine the consequences if it were to happen here.

“Not to say that it couldn’t happen in our area, but it would be a much more significant event in terms of being unique,” Kammeyer said. He explained that it would be much harder to for the fire to thrive in the climate here making the chances of such enormous fires very slim.

“There are requirements in place to have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, those are the two most important things you can have in your house to be fire safe,” Kammeyer said.

Overall, while the chances may be low, a fire similar to those of the Wine Country could always happen here, but the risk can be minimized with the proper fire safety and cooperation of Burlingame’s residents.

Posted on December 20, 2017 .