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Park, parking access to be limited on high fire-danger days

Pilot program aims to reduce chance of blazes and make it easier for firefighters to get to the scene of blazes.

January 30, 2014|By Bryce Alderton

A pilot program that would limit parking on some city streets and restrict access to wilderness parks during periods of high fire danger won unanimous Laguna Beach City Council support Jan. 21.

The council adopted three recommendations from the city's Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee that would improve first-responder access in potential fire zones.

Council members gave the OK for the fire department to hold at least one public meeting and gather feedback from residents in the Diamond/Crestview area about limiting parking on certain streets during high fire-danger periods, known as red-flag days.

About 100 homes would be affected by the trial program, which will last at least a year.The committee recommended the neighborhood, which includes Diamond Street, Crestview Drive and Ruby Place, because it has "significant access issues" and is easy to study, a city staff report said.

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Before the committee recommendation, the Fire Risk Mitigation Subcommittee, which advises the larger Disaster Preparedness panel, met with officials from the Los Angeles and Pasadena fire departments to learn about parking restrictions in those cities.

One possibility they came back with is for Laguna is to prohibit parking on both sides of streets 27 feet wide or less. If a street is between 27 and 32 feet, then cars could park on only one side during red-flag periods. The dimensions are important because of clearance required by fire vehicles.

Red-flag periods occur when relative humidity is less than or equal to 15% with winds 25 mph or greater, and/or frequent gusts of 35 mph or greater, for a period of six hours or more, according to the National Weather Service. Another red-flag condition occurs when relative humidity is 10% or less for 10 or more hours, regardless of wind speed.

As of Jan. 21, Laguna Beach had five red-flag days compared with seven each in 2013 and 2012, Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse told the council.

Once the department gathers information, a brochure containing red flag information would be sent to each person in the affected area.

Residents will be able to sign up for notifications on the city's website that would send a message to a phone or email account. The fire department would update its website with red flag parking restrictions.

Both Pasadena and Los Angeles permitted a grace period before ticketing or towing vehicles parked in prohibited zones. The Laguna committee recommended a similar grace period.

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