Preparing for wildfires a community effort | RecordCourier.com

Preparing for wildfires a community effort

Staff Reports
A view of the Bison fire from South Sunridge Drive on July 5, 2013 . Started by a lightning strike on July 4, 2013, the fire claimed 24,136 acres and cost $8.8 million to fight, the largest and most expensive fire in Douglas County history.
Shannon Litz | R-C File Photo

With wildland fires burning across the West, East Fork Fire Protection District personnel are updating their preparedness, and encouraging residents to better prepare.

Twenty years ago, now Battalion Chief, then volunteer, Scott Fraser has seen a large improvement in how fires are fought on the Sierra Front.

“From modern brush trucks with 500 gallon per minute pumps and larger water tanks, to using Geospatial Information Systems in real time to show fire progression and allow responders to use maps on their cellphones and computers in the fire engines,” he said. “East Fork recently added new hose packs allowing our personnel to fight the fires with more water, adding to their own safety. “

East Fork is still a combination system with more career staff on duty each day, but still using volunteers to help with water tenders, support roles and covering the rest of the district when large fires occur, Fraser said.

East Fork even staffs an additional brush truck on high hazard days, such as the recent red flag days, to increase the number of firefighters, and lower response times.

“Mutual Aid systems are much more organized than 20 years ago, with automatic aid agreements with Carson City, Alpine County, and Mono County allowing for resources to respond quicker and much more efficient,” Fraser said. “Even our personnel have expanded their knowledge base and experience in fighting fires by going to fires all over the West Coast, not just in Douglas County. Currently we have personnel in Arizona and New Mexico helping on large fires there. The experience they bring back is used here locally to help fight fires such as the T.R.E. fire, Bison, Preacher and Ray May, just to name a few.”

Fraser said residents have a critical role in preparing should a wildfire threaten their homes.

“Having at least 30 feet of defensible space, removing dead brush from around your home, having a plan in case you need to evacuate, and having at least three days’ worth of food, water, medicine and clothing is crucial for anyone living in or near the wildland interface,” he said. “Large portions of homes in Douglas County are within the wildland urban interface zone. The Living with Fire website is full of great tips and tools to assist homeowners in preparing.”

Fraser said residents should to check local media sources anytime a fire is burning in or near Douglas County.

“Television, radio, newspapers, websites, even social media such as Facebook and Twitter are valuable resources for information during an emergency,” he said. “Fighting a wildland fire is truly a community issue. From the Fire Department and Sheriff’s department, to GIS, Dispatch, our mutual aid partners, back to the homeowner, everyone should take the time to be prepared.”

For further information call the District Office at 775-782-9040.