This week is Wildfire Awareness Week in California. Your local, state and federal fire agencies are urging residents to “Prepare now! Wildfire knows no season.”
The month of May is a great time for us all to reflect on last year’s wildfires throughout the state and here in Plumas County. As with the rest of California, our county too can have wildfires that occur any time of year depending on fuel dryness, weather patterns and especially the wind.
Uncontrolled wildfires have significant impacts on our county’s environmental, economic and social wellbeing.
Last summer, wildfires in Sierra Valley and Indian Valley threatened homes and forced evacuations. The largest wildfire, the 4,310 acre Minerva Fire, came to the doorsteps of Quincy. Valuable timberland was lost and residents saw firsthand the potential for property loss. Were it not for the valiant actions of firefighters and air resources, many homes and much more timber would have been destroyed. As it was, residents experienced necessary evacuation warnings.
Both forest and grassland wildfires of 2017 should be etched in all our memories. Imagine this summer looking up over the ridge and seeing a smoke column. It’s a hot and windy day and you think … Have I done enough? By that time, it may be too late to do all you wished you had done to prepare your home to survive a wildfire. Our county is no stranger to lightning and human caused fires. Just look around on the hillsides and you will see large fire scars — evidence of a rich fire history in our area. Everyone living in our mountainous area should have a good understanding of being “Firewise.”
Be aware and prepare now. Traveling embers from wildfires miles away can ignite roofs, lawn chairs, decks, fences, mulch, pine needles and other common items around your house and yard. Cleaning your property of debris, limbing your trees, creating space between your plants and maintaining your landscaping reduces the likelihood of ignition. Consider everyday preparedness actions to make your home and property safer from wildfire. Create a “fuel-free” area within 5 feet of your home’s foundation, move firewood stacks and propane tanks away from your house or shed, and dispose of lawn cuttings.
Be in the know if there is an evacuation. Cell phone users should sign up their cell phones for CodeRED: Plumas County’s reverse 911 program. The Sheriff’s Office uses this to contact residents directly via cell phone message or text, or by sending an email during an emergency, to let people know whether there’s an approaching wildfire, flood conditions, downed power lines, lost individuals and abductions, chemical spills, bomb threats, the need to evacuate or other emergencies. Residents with landlines are automatically in the system. Register for the free service online at the Plumas County website home page by clicking on emergency sign-up button.
Your personal preparedness plan in the case of a wildfire. This is a great time review your homeowner or renter insurance policy to make sure you’re not underinsured in case of a wildfire. Do you have your family Communication plan figured out? If there was a wildfire, what would you do? Where would your family meet if separated? How would you connect with each other? Take time to figure out your personal plan. Where would you go if evacuated? Have you thought about what you would do with your large and small animals? Do you know your evacuation routes out? Have you got a “Go-Bag” packed for you and your pets if you were to be evacuated?
Do you live in a Firewise Community? It is time for us all to talk to our neighbors about wildfires. Share advice and watch for those success stories of homes that were saved from wildfires. You want your home and community to be a winner in the firefight. We are all in it together and working together towards more Firewise Communities in our county can make a big difference. Plumas County has nine nationally recognized communities with six more working towards national recognition.
Where you can get more info to be prepared. The Plumas County Firesafe Council has many resources for residents about defensible space and evacuations for you and your animals in the fire preparedness section on their website at plumasfiresafe.org. Information is also available about how your community can take the steps to become a nationally recognized Firewise Community. Cal Fire has information on preparing your home for wildfire, information on bark beetles and bug trees, and fire prevention tips on their website “Ready for Wildfire” at readyforwildfire.org. Please take time during Wildfire Awareness Week and the entire month of May to prepare for this summers fire season. Wildfires are a part of living in Plumas County every year — it’s not a matter of if, but when.