Notes from June 28th Evacuation Event, courtesy of Liz Jensen

Post date: Jul 7, 2014 6:38:05 PM


Saturday, June 28, 2014

About 40 Bonny Doon residents attended today’s meeting hosted by The Fire Safe Council and the Bonny Doon CERT Team.


Joe Christy, President of the Fire Safe Council, gave a preliminary overview of the Evacuation Mantra:

Ready, Set, Go!

Ready:   Create defensible space around your property and take specific steps to make your home safer

Set:        Have a wildfire action plan you can implement quickly

Go!        Evacuate safely

For more info, download here or pick up a “READY, SET, GO! Handbook at Cal Fire on Highway 9 in Felton.

Joe emphasized the need to evacuate early; 25 of the 26 people killed in the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire died in their cars, caught by the fire on tight mountain roads.

Presentation by Cody Bogan, CAL Fire Battalion Chief

There are approximately 3000 residents living in Bonny Doon. This is a large group of people to evacuate given the mountainous terrain and curvy, narrow roads. If a fire has just started and is fast moving, residents can expect limited initial response and may have to make evacuation decisions on their own.

Initial professional response at the start of a wildfire, assuming there has been no diversion to fight fires elsewhere, would be as follows:

5 fire engines

2 bulldozers,

1 helicopter

2 air tankers (the closest comes from Hollister)

2 hand crews of 17

1 water tender

Fire trucks work from house to house. Five to ten fire trucks will be spread very thin in the initial ramp up of a major wild land fire.

The first area of evacuation will be at the front of the fire and its size will depend on terrain, housing density, winds, etc. This area is called a “Fire Box” and first responders will be assigned to assist with evacuation and fire fighting in that area, with the priority on saving lives. The “Fire Box” can quickly change or expand depending on shifting winds, etc.

The Sheriff’s Department is assigned responsibility for evacuations.

One the “Fire Box” has been established, Reverse 911 calls are sent out to targeted areas. There may or may not be time to get these messages out to residents closest to the fire before they need to decide to evacuate. Also, phone lines could be down so not all reverse calls may not go through. Reverse 911 calls are made to land lines but there is a new service available where you can register both cell phones and email addresses for emergency contact purposes. Click here if you’d like to register: Code Red Emergency Notification Registry

If the fire grows, teams from the SF and Monterey Bay Areas, throughout California and other states may be called into assist. Fire fighters called in from other locales are not going to know our area, so clear signage is critically important to provide assistance as quickly as possible.  Reflective numbers at least 4” tall near the entrance to your property are recommended.

If our local fire teams are called away to fight fires somewhere else in the county or state and a fire starts here, Cal Fire has a mechanism for pulling other teams in from outlying areas. If this happens, expect delays depending on the distances traveled and remember that these fire fighters are not going to know our area. Clear signage is critical.

Be aware that as you are trying to evacuate, large firefighting equipment may be coming in. For example, a 12-foot wide bulldozer is loaded on a 40-foot flat bed truck. A fully loaded water tender truck cannot stop quickly if you meet on a hair pin curve or have to brake suddenly. Fire Engines may also be partially blocking roads as they fight fires while keeping their vehicles out of reach of flames.

There are lots of narrow road sections and very few turnouts for passing. Conditions may be smoky and windy with poor visibility so drive slowly and carefully while evacuating. Expect the unexpected and give yourself as much time as possible to safely leave the mountains.

Keep you vehicle’s gas tank at least half full. If you are stuck waiting to pass a fallen tree, fire truck, work crew, someone loading a horse trailer etc., the last thing you want to do is run out of gas and block residents or emergency vehicles behind you.

If you have a substantial water source that is easily available to fire trucks and you are willing to share it during an emergency you can put a blue reflective dot on the road outside your driveway or get one to stick in the ground next to your driveway.

 You can also help the Bonny Doon Volunteer Fire Department and Cal Fire update their information by emailing them with your address, gallons of water available and the water source’s location.

Cal Fire: or Fall Creek Station phone number:  426-3131

They will send someone out to evaluate access, elevation, safety, etc. If it looks good they will provide you with a blue dot designation, indicating your home has accessible water for fighting fires. Please do not put blue dots up without authorization as it could delay fire fighters from getting to critical water resources they can use.

Presentation by Greg Lansdowne, Lieutenant, Sheriff’s Office, Santa Cruz

Multiple agencies are assembled to fight wild land fires. These include:

Mandatory Evacuations: Highest recommendation to leave promptly. The Sheriff’s Department is assigned to go door to door to inform residents as phone lines and other forms of communication may be down. If there is time, they will usually have exit road recommendations, information to evacuation centers where food, shelter and information are available and time lines for leaving (usually 10 minutes or less).

However, you can’t be forced to leave your property if you decide to stay. If you stay, you will be asked to sign a waiver, saying you understand the danger and as a way of checking status after the fire has been put out. You can also refuse to sign the waiver.

After evacuations, the Sherriff’s Office is usually responsible for patrolling the area to keep it safe from looters. If you are stopped, you will be required to show some form of identification to verify you have a reason to be there.

Information on the Fire’s Status: Recommended going to the Cal Fire website for up to date communications.  During the Lockheed Fire, the Santa Cruz Sentinel also set up a special forum for residents to post updates and make status reports.

Important Phone Numbers:

426.3131 Fall Creek Fire Station

471.1121 Santa Cruz Sheriff

662.0511 California Highway Patrol (CHP)

335.5353 CAL Fire/SC County

911 Emergency

Thanks to Liz Jensen, who provided us with her notes.