With fires currently burning in Yuba County and approximately 3,000 evacuated, how do residents and county officials prepare for the very real possibility of a wildfire sparking close to home each wildfire season?

Briana Haberman, emergency operations planner for Yuba County Emergency Services, said during wildfire season all residents should be prepared to hit the road at a moment’s notice due to the spontaneous nature of wildfires. They should have a plan in place for themselves and their pets in the event of an evacuation order.

“These plans should include but not be limited to personal belongings, medications, pertinent documentation, cash, where they will go and how they will get there, food and water to last at least three days for them and their pets, and plans for their families if they are/or become separated, as well as communications plans with families, friends, and caregivers particularly in the event that communication systems become impacted,” said Haberman. 

It is also recommended that everyone have a go-bag packed and at least half a tank of gas at all times during wildfire season, according to Haberman. 

Haberman said that it is encouraged, particularly during the ongoing pandemic, to have a back-up plan, as well, to avoid congregate sheltering in the event of being displaced.

“Some examples would be enough reserves to be able to purchase a hotel stay, staying with close family or friends (and), if time allows, use of your own RV or trailer,” said Haberman. 

According to Haberman, Yuba County sends out fliers each year to residents in an effort to raise awareness of the risks associated with wildfires and outline the steps that they can take to prepare.

“It is important for residents to make sure that they are registered with CodeRed in order to receive emergency notifications; and that they are familiar with the sound of the High/Low Sirens used by the Yuba County Sheriff’s office to indicate the need to evacuate,” said Haberman.

When disaster does strike and a local agency needs support, Haberman said the OES emergency operations center is activated and all county workers are considered disaster service workers that can be called upon to facilitate emergency services. 

This can put a strain on already-tired staff who have been tasked with pandemic crisis response for months, said Haberman. 

Haberman said the current pandemic has been a game changer in the way that her department has historically approached planning for disasters, particularly when establishing  congregate sheltering while accommodating for the social distancing measures, the logistical impacts of needing multiple shelters to allow for adequate social distancing and increased measures to health screen folks that may find themselves in a congregate shelter setting. 

“This is especially important for protecting those that may be at increased risk due to pre-existing conditions or other causes that place them at greater risk,” said Haberman. 

Haberman said Yuba County has strategically placed materials and supplies throughout the county to support establishing an emergency evacuation center at a moments notice should the need arise. 

They have also recently acquired an animal disaster response trailer that has contents to deploy and set up an almost immediate animal shelter for up to 65 domestic animals. This was acquired through a grant from the American Kennel Club Reunite program, said Haberman. 

Across the bridge, Chuck Smith, public information officer for Sutter County, said the risk of wildfire in Sutter County is very low, with the biggest threat being in the Sutter Buttes and in the brushy areas around the rivers, but the county also encourages residents to prepare in the event that a wildfire does occur. 

The last notable wildfire to occur in Sutter County was a grass fire that burned roughly 1,350 acres of land just south of North Butte Road on West Butte Road, according to archives. 

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