Fire – Emergency preparedness At Courses In California May 14, 2014 By Pat Gross

(L)The fire response plan at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe includes placing hoses and staff in strategic position at a moment’s notice. This proved helpful this week as wildfires broke out in north San Diego County. (R) Staff members are assigned to specific areas of the property during a fire emergency, which includes the use of fire hoses to protect bridges, infrastructure, and prevent the spread of fire in the canyons.

The driest winter on record coupled with hot, dry, windy conditions in recent days has California golf courses on high alert for wildfires. Although fire drills are common in schools and office buildings, they aren’t the first thing that comes to mind at a golf course.  However, one golf course in Southern California performs routine fire drills, which proved to be very helpful this week as wildfires broke out in north San Diego County.

The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe is located in the hills and chaparral north of San Diego. Knowing that fire is a recurring threat in the region, the maintenance staff performs routine fire drills to make sure they are prepared in case of an emergency situation. During the drills staff members are assigned to specific areas of the property, and a phone tree activates the fire management program. High-pressure hoses are placed in key locations and a specialized irrigation program is activated along the perimeter of the property to protect neighboring structures. Of particular concern are several bridges that span wide canyons and carry utilities to various sections of the development. The bridges provide a good vantage point to keep fire from spreading up the canyons while protecting vital infrastructure.

A routine fire drill performed by the staff at The Bridges earlier in the month proved very useful this week when wildfires erupted in the surrounding area May 14. Although the development was not directly impacted, the deployment plan was activated and worked seamlessly.

The recent experience at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe provides an excellent example of emergency preparation programs. Specific practices that should be considered and addressed for fire prevention and control include:

  • A notification system for staff and residents of the community.
  • Routine practice of emergency programs in advance of an actual emergency.
  • Consider and address all possibilities including carrying fire extinguishers in maintenance vehicles, especially for crews working in dry brush areas.

Pat Gross (pgross@usga.org)

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