Residents of Downieville and Goodyears Bar Meet to Prepare for Wildfire Season

Originally scheduled to be held at the Downieville Community Hall, the local organizers of this past Tuesday’s gathering to discuss measures currently in place to protect residepnts if a forest fire erupts were wise to move the meeting to the Downieville School’s gymnasium.

Yes, well over a 100 people attended the session to hear presentations given by Danielle Bradfield (Sierra County’s new Forester and the Director of Fire Safe Sierra County), Sheriff Mike Fisher, Lee Brown (Director of the Office of Emergency Services for Sierra County), Robert Hall (Acting Chief, Downieville Fire Protection District), Gabe Foster (USFS Battalion Chief), and Graham Rice (USFS Division Chief).

Preparedness, vigilance, and personal responsibility were themes woven throughout all of the talks given by the speakers.

Sheriff Fisher explained there are now two systems, Everbridge and ZoneHaven, in place to help alert people in the event of an emergency and he encouraged everyone to register with the system in order to receive e-mails, phone messages, or text messages in the event of an emergency. For those unable to register on-line (https://member.everbridge.net/index/431700047822970/#/signup), Fisher suggested they contact the Sheriff’s Office for assistance. ZoneHaven, another source of alerts, is accessible on-line via community.zonehaven.com.

For residents of Downieville, Hall explained and demonstrated the three signals the new siren gives out. There’s the “standard” 3-second wail heard at noon to signify the device is working properly. A 120-second alert/wail will be set off by fire dispatch when there is a problem signficant enough to require all fire and EMS personnel to report to the fire station and monitor their radios for further instruction. A 3-minute series of high-low wails (a 3-second wail followed by 3-seconds winding down pitch) signifies an active fire in the area and the town is being threatended. During this time, it is important for residents to answer their Everbridge phone call and follow instructions.

These instructions will also be repeated through the PA system at the siren tower might tell people they need to grab the “Go Bag” they prepared in advance (ideally containing N-95 face masks, a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and water, clothing, batteries, a flashlight, a first aid kit, valuable papers, family photographs, medications, and pet carriers) and begin implementing their evacuation plan. Alternatively, the instructions may say it is not safe to leave your residence and it is time to make sure your “Stay Box” is well stocked with water, non-perishable foods, plastic bags with ties to use in a bucket for a toilet, a radio and batteries.

Yes, the county’s Office of Emergency Services now possesses a Wireless Emergency Alert system broadcasting at FM frequencies of 94.1, 101.7, and 104.1. Not only will this system provide information about when your “Stay Box” is no longer necessary, it will be particularly useful to those living outside the range of the siren in Downieville. Thus, monitoring these radio channels throughout periods of high fire danger could be extremely useful. Having a police scanner would not be a waste of one’s money, either.

Of course, preparation also entails the creation of defensible space around the structures on our properties. This means removing all combustible materials from 0-5 feet from buildings; within 5-30 feet from structures, removing all dead vegetation, trimming trees to keep branches 10+ feet from other trees, and creating separations between shrubs, trees, wood piles, and furniture; and, keeping grasses mown, removing fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, and small branches from 30-100 feet from buildings.

As of now, an assessment of Firewise compliance within Downieville and Goodyears Bar has been performed and submitted to Firewise USA for review.

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