This year has been a record-breaking time for California’s wildfire season. Mega fires raged across California, Washington, and Oregon, resulting in “millions of residents smothered in toxic air.” With so many fires ablaze, it is thanks to many different organizations that California’s residents have an increased awareness of disaster preparedness measures. Part of the larger California Fire Safe Council, The Greater Alpine Fire Safe Council has been busy working with San Diego County officials to implement an evacuation plan in case of wildfire.
According to The Greater Alpine Fire Safe Council President, Neville Connell, the county’s existing system does a phenomenal job of informing residents when an evacuation is needed. Still, it doesn’t inform residents about where, how, and what roads to take when evacuating. “Most people see the news showing flames and think, ‘Let’s get out.’ Then they just go towards I-8 just like everyone else,” says Connell. This mad rush to get out causes massive traffic jams from North to South, resulting in hundreds of people trapped on highways, not evacuating at all. This exact scenario occurred during the 2018 Paradise Fire and Camp Fire. Tragically, seven victims of the Paradise Fire died in their vehicles.
During the Valley Fire (2015), fire crews were able to access real-time information about the fire using broadcasting to send information about the location of the wind and existing flames. Using these tools, the Greater Alpine Fire Safe Council, in collaboration with the county, has created a 9×12 card that lays out four different evacuation routes residents would be able to take given the path of the flames and traffic. “One side shows the routes while the other side [of the card] shows you how to use it. It explains where the wind is, how it is pushing the fire, where the drops of water are occurring. [Residents] can look at this and take the right evacuation route,” says Connell.
The Greater Alpine Fire Safe Council is happy to say that the county is working hard to install road signs that would support the evacuation routes laid out in the card. They expect to have these cards mailed out to every home and business in the area by the beginning of 2021.