NEVADA CITY, Calif. July 10, 2017 – On Saturday, just after 2 pm while the Wall Fire was developing a menacing rotating column, Banner Mountain lookout reported seeing smoke in the area of North Bloomfield Road near High way 49 in Nevada City. An air tanker returning from Butte County to the Grass Valley Air Attack Base for a reload took a loop around the area and confirmed the smoke, while drivers on North Bloomfield attempted to call 911. The incident was named the Bloomfield Fire.
Less than ten minutes later Nevada County Consolidated, Nevada City and Cal Fire firefighters started arriving on scene, joined by Tahoe National Forest Helicopter 514, Cal Fire’s Air Attack plane and Tanker 88. Nevada County Sheriff deputies blocked North Bloomfield from the intersection of Hwy 49 to the junction with Lake Vara/Purdon Road, redirecting traffic via Coyote Street. The fire was fully contained to 1.5 acres by 4:20 pm. All is well, right?
Chaos, panic and no disaster (this time)
The Lake Vera/Round Mountain Neighborhood Association (LVRMNA) has been working towards becoming a FireWise community for the past year. Projects included widening a road to allow fire trucks to pass through and stage on Hudson Way, Americorps projects reducing fuels at strategic bottlenecks, inspections by the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County volunteer inspectors, many hundreds of hours of work and tens of thousands of dollars spent by homeowners to have adequate defensible space.
All that work did not prepare residents for the chaos during this admittedly small fire. Two members of LVRMNA’s Firewise committee came on the incident scene by chance a few minutes after it started. “At least 6-8 vehicles were at the intersection in various directions trying to tell each other what was happening; one moved to block N Bloomfield heading downhill toward 49. More vehicles were arriving. Because cell is so bad there we drove to the fire station on Coyote Street, arriving just as they were getting into an engine. We called 911 to ask for police assistance with the traffic mess there and elsewhere. She said they knew about the fire and would dispatch police. … However, it was pretty stunning to see how congested our little Lake Vera/N Bloomfield T got – with people stopped everywhere and not an easy time getting turned around and onto N Bloomfield heading toward Coyote, or back down Lake Vera or up Airport. Thank goodness our neighbors are good citizens and stayed to help with communication and traffic til police help arrived. What would have happened if that fire started moving up the hill? Something to think about!”
Meanwhile, on social media some were asking about evacuation routes – even though no evacuations were in effect. Others shared their fears about getting trapped on the feeder roads to North Bloomfield.
Wake-up call for people and neighborhoods
The traffic snarl and the lack of emergency planning by residents are a wake-up call, and not just for LVRMNA. Country roads are narrow and there is basically no room for error. If a road is blocked, be that due to a fire or a tree across a roadway, turning around can be a challenge. Now imagine dozens of cars trying the same maneuver, some with trailers. Not a pretty picture.
If you live anywhere in the Sierra Nevada or the Foothills, your Go Bag needs to be ready now. Besides saving you valuable time when the evacuation order comes, you and your family will be better prepared. Should you need help deciding what to pack, consult the 2017-2018 Fire Season Guide, published by the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County in conjunction with all local, state and federal fire agencies in Nevada County.
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The guide also has checklists for your home before, during and after and evacuation. A family communications plan is also included. How will you communicate and where will you meet your family in the event that you can’t go home? Regular cell phone coverage in rural areas is spotty to non-existent, during a fire cell towers overload or burn down. Plan ahead and don’t forget your pets and meds.
Evacuations, if ordered, will be conducted by law enforcement. You can register with Nevada County’s Office of Emergency Services to receive emergency notifications on your cell phone, your AT&T land line is automatically registered.
Your local media is another good source of information, check our respective websites, listen to local radio stations for updates. We work with the fire agencies to publish accurate and timely updates. Do NOT call 911 for fire information, dispatchers will be busy ordering resources to the incident.
With several fires over the past weeks, rumors spread faster than an ember in dry grass. The cause of the Bloomfield Fire has been rumored to be transients, a serial arsonist, a careless driver with a chain dragging on the ground, a homeowner or a cigarette. According to Cal Fire, the fire was definitely human-caused (not a cloud in the sky and no lightning reported) but not malicious – ruling out the “serial arsonist running around starting fires.” No evidence of a recent burn pile or campfire was located either.
Don’t fan the flames, get the facts.
Are you ready for wildfire? The answer better be Yes.