In an effort to educate community members for the impending ramifications of a dangerous wildfire season, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and the City of Oakdale in partnership with Cal Fire, Modesto Fire Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office and Oakdale Police Department held a community meeting Monday, July 15 at the Bianchi Center to discuss fire safety and evacuation preparedness.
Last year, the Camp fire in Butte County, California razed approximately 239 square miles, destroyed close to 19,000 buildings, and killed 85 civilians. The Camp fire, sparked by electrical transmission lines has replaced the Cloquet fire in 1918 as the deadliest wildfire in the United States. The cost of the Camp fire was calculated at $ 16.5 billion.
Following the aftermath of several California wildfires, fire agencies realized many people, particularly those in more urban settings, were unprepared for the possibility of a catastrophic event, as they didn’t believe something as horrific as a wildfire razing entire towns could actually happen.
But as the residents of Paradise, California discovered – it can and it did.
Alan Ernst, Modesto Fire Chief now also working with Oakdale, offered the following advice, “The most important message I can give to you as the fire chief, is we want to protect you as best we can. But we really need your help. The defensible space around the properties is solely on you to protect and clear your property.”
He also said it’s important to be aware if there’s an incident.
“Don’t wait for that phone call. Don’t wait. If you have the ability to evacuate … do so,” Ernst said. “The fire in Santa Rosa devastated their community and that’s the last thing we all want for our community and around here.”
Jeff Sanders, Cal Fire Tuolumne-Calaveras division fire chief detailed the Ready-Set-Go protocol, which is a personal wildfire action plan, explaining how residents can protect themselves, prepare for an evacuation and reach safety with their loved ones.
The entire plan is available online at https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/ready-set-go-campaign/.
Highlights of the presentation included efforts to “harden” your home to wildfire, which include ensuring the roof is not conducive to stray embers.
“The roof of your home is the most vulnerable part of your home,” Sanders shared.
Also of particular concern are rain gutters – always make sure they are clean and free of debris – and roof vents are not made of plastic but rather metal mesh.
Keeping property gates open is essential to helping emergency personnel in the event of an incident but it’s also important for homeowners in the aftermath.
“Keep your gates open, trim low-hanging branches,” Sanders said, adding that emergency personnel vehicles are large and nothing stands in their way of reaching their destination. “They’ll get in but it might look different when you return.”
In other words: help them, help you — and don’t complain if they have to mow down your gate to save your property or hold the line.
Helpful tips for fire-safety included planting fire-resistant landscaping but Sanders reminded people, “There is no such thing as fire-proof plants. Everything burns at a certain temperature.”
However, one of the more stark reminders that people might not realize is that in the event of a crisis, cell phones may or may not work, which is why an evacuation plan with family is essential to a successful and safe outcome.
“Know your meeting place, have an evacuation plan for your pets and large animals,” Sanders said.
Oakdale Police Department Lt. Jerry Ramar assured people that in the event of an emergency, the local department was prepared to provide information in a timely manner to affected residents via phone, social media and the old-fashioned way of knocking on doors.
One way or another, working in tandem with state and county agencies, OPD is prepared to get information out in a timely and efficient manner.
Residents are encouraged to register with www.stanaware.com to receive updates for community, state and city alerts.