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Local fire departments prepare for wildfire season through meetings and webinars

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Authorities urge residents to learn about escape routes and how to protect their homes

Yolo County fire prevention agencies are currently preparing for this year’s wildfire season. The Green Valley Fire Safe Council, Yolo County Resource Conservation District (Yolo County RCD), and other local agencies hosted a webinar April 26 on wildfire preparedness.

Julie Rose, Yolo County resident and owner of Fiddler’s Green Farm since 1991, has been forced to evacuate three times in the more than 25 years she has lived in Capay Valley. During the fires sparked by lightning in California, she said fire departments were unavailable to help in the sparsely populated area and she was evacuated for about six days.

“From our farm we could look west and within a quarter of a mile see the flames approaching our property,” Rose said. “The air quality was super bad.”

As a member of the Capay Valley Fire Auxiliary, Rose recently attended a virtual meeting with several other agencies, including Yolo County Emergency Services and Fire Department. There were about 35-45 people there, half of whom were representatives from different agencies. She explained how the meeting taught her that there are many steps they can take to prepare for the upcoming fire season.

“I basically just left thinking I was going to help provide food [for the firefighters during the next season], and that’s important to me in and of itself,” Rose said. “[The representatives of different agencies] were included to think bigger than just providing food.

Rose highlighted a few aspects of wildfire preparedness that agencies have discussed, including evacuating livestock, creating a database to store information, how volunteers could label addresses on properties. and identify residents who may need additional assistance during an evacuation. She stressed the importance of preparing for the wildfire season well in advance.

“We can hopefully support our firefighters more easily,” Rose said. “I think it’s best that we plan for the worst.”

Explaining the importance of fire education for residents, Yolo County RCD program manager Tanya Meyer pointed out that most homes that burned down in wildfires were unprepared to withstand ember storms.

“We do as much education as possible through the Fire Safe Council, both ours and our neighbors in Solano County,” Meyer said. “Education can save a house because often houses catch fire when the fire is far away.”

Meyer said the webinar featured several speakers, including Aaron Latta, the CAL FIRE Battalion Chief for the Sonoma Lake Napa Unit, who discussed the current state of wildfires in California. Speakers also introduced evacuation.

Meyer explained that the webinar will also teach residents how to protect their homes.

“We’ll talk about things you can do around your house outside in a defensible space,” Meyer said. “Another topic will be what’s called home curing, like cleaning gutters.”

CAL FIRE Information Officer Will Powers urged residents to always be aware of the risk posed by wildfires.

“Evacuations have happened over the past five years with the major fires we’ve had in the unit,” Powers said.

CAL FIRE also provides information on preparing for wildfires, including what to put in an emergency supply kit. The CALFIRE app allows users to create personalized wildfire preparedness plans and keep track of active incidents.

Powers stressed the importance of being prepared, especially during the summer when the weather can be hotter and drier. He noted that wildfire season is year-round in California.

“Know your escape routes in your residential areas,” Powers said. “Sign up for all of your sheriffs or fire department Facebook pages in these counties.”

Rose shared that preparing for wildfire season happens at the community level.

“Preparing for fires is kind of an expression of caring for the community, working for the community and for each other,” Rose said. “It really is hope.”
Written by: Ellie Lee — [email protected]