Today at Berkeley Lab

Director’s Message on Aug. 2 Lock Down, Fire Evacuation

Dear Berkeley Lab colleagues,

As you know, we had two separate incidents today that required an emergency response across the entire Berkeley Lab site. I want to thank you for your patience and cooperation in responding. I want to summarize as clearly as I can what happened.

First, at approximately noon today, Berkeley Lab’s Protective Services received a report that a person entered Lab property illegally. On the basis of some additional information we received from UCPD, we made a decision to initiate a site-wide lockdown. We did this to make sure that everybody on our site was safe. The person was found and arrested by UC Berkeley police fairly quickly. As soon as we were alerted that the person was in custody, the site-wide lockdown was lifted.

At almost the same time as this incident was ending, approximately 1 pm, a grass and wild land fire was reported near the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Fish Ranch roads. We also received notice from PG&E that they expected to shut the power down to the site very quickly. We decided that the prudent action was to initiate a shutdown of operations and to start a Lab-wide evacuation. Again, the most important consideration is the need to protect our many employees and visitors. Getting some 4,000 employees and affiliates down from the hill is a major operation, and we wanted to do this in as orderly a way as possible. Everyone on campus was also evacuating, which put additional stress on the exit routes. The evacuation was completed in 90 minutes with no injuries or accidents.

I am pleased to report that the fire is now under control and firefighters are conducting mop-up operations at this time. I have now lived through evacuations for five California wildfires, and each one has been a harrowing experience. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

As it turned out, PG&E was able to avoid shutting down the substation that feeds power to the site. We were fortunate in that regard, since a shutdown would have made recovery take longer.

Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak Road (from Fish Ranch to possibly Centennial) will likely still be closed in the morning for fire crews. That means Grizzly Gate will likely be inaccessible in the morning. Please use Strawberry and Blackberry Gates instead.

We are planning on resuming normal Lab operations tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:00 am. Until that time, all employees and visitors are instructed to refrain from coming to the Lab. An update on gate access and road closures will be available at and 800-445-5830 by 5:00 am tomorrow (Thursday morning).

As access to the site may be limited, the normal policy of telecommuting is an option for staff who receive prior approval from their supervisor.

We would like to thank the responding firefighters, including the on-site Alameda County fire fighting team, for responding so quickly and effectively. I also want to thank the Lab’s Emergency Response and Security teams and the thousands of responsive employees and visitors for their professional and prompt thinking and actions during the course of this extraordinarily challenging day.

Although unplanned, this was a valuable exercise for us in how to evacuate the site safely. We will analyze this event to understand how the emergency plan could be improved. We need to be ready for another fire or other event that could require evacuation of the site.

Best regards,