With one of the worst and longest droughts behind us, 2019 has turned out to be one of the wettest years in recent history; in fact, it was still raining in May. “If you drive around California,” says, NCFPD Division Chief Keith McReynolds, “fuel (various forms of vegetation and chaparral) is screaming green. In the short term, that’s a good thing, of course; but, in the longer term, these turn brown and become highly combustible.”
So, while this year’s “fire season” has been pushed back to a later date,” Chief McReynolds points out, “everyone has to stay vigilant and do their part to be prepared for when the fire season does arrive.”
By doing your part, he is referring to such things as creating and maintaining a defensible space around your home and doing weed and brush abatement wherever needed on your property. “Homes that maintained a defensible space generally fared better during the December 2017 Lilac Fire in Bonsall,” Chief McReynolds pointed out. He adds, “If the job is too big to handle, contract with a specialist who has the proper knowledge and equipment to handle this task.”
Making certain that paramedics can get into your home in an emergency is paramount. “Having rapid access to a patient’s home is one of the most important factors in an emergency,” Chief Reynolds stresses. “Overhanging branches and overgrown vegetation along driveways make it difficult for us to get to the patient.”
Evacuation Plans are Central to Protecting Victims
As an outgrowth of the Gavalin fire in 2002, the NCFPD created an Evacuation Plan and map. Since then, the evacuation map has been updated three times (refer to the current version of the Evacuation Map on pg. 2).
Captain Greg Mann explains that a key element of the Evacuation Plan involves identifying pre-determined locations for temporary evacuation point and refuge areas.
A “temporary evacuation area” is a pre-determined location, such as an open field or public park, where (for example) occupants of a building that catches on fire can retreat to, for safety, until they can be transported to a place of permanent safety. The District has identified 11 temporary evacuation points throughout its geographic service area.
A temporary “refuge area” is a building (school, church, whatever) that can shelter occupants during a fire or other emergency, when evacuation from the area may not be safe or possible in the short-term.
“Deciding whether to shelter or evacuate to safety (i.e., get away from a threat or hazard) is among the most important decisions that must be made during an emergency, such as a wildfire,” Captain Mann explains.
Literally, each NCFPD firefighter and paramedic trains every day in an effort to hone his/her skills. Captain Mann encapsulates the District’s philosophy with the age-old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”