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In this installment of our series we’re taking a deeper dive into decisions made before, during and after an incident. You have a major part to play in an emergency and decisions you make beforehand can influence the outcome.

Then, there are decisions made by agencies. Who makes these decisions and why? Let’s take a look.

Burn or No Burn day – The primary responsibility for a Burn Day decision resides with 2 agencies: the California Air Resources Board and CAL FIRE. The local Air District (Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District for Nevada, Plumas and Sierra counties, Placer County Air Pollution Control District for Placer County) has the final say on the burn day status, but considers input from all relevant sources and agencies. They will defer to the agency that calls for a No Burn Day. The primary factors considered in a decision are fire danger, air quality and atmospheric dispersion characteristics.

Open Burning, Burn Permits required, Burn suspension – The decision to allow backyard burning is made by the CAL FIRE unit responsible for the area. In our immediate area, CAL FIRE NEU is the agency responsible for Nevada, Yuba and Placer Counties. CAL FIRE AEU is responsible for Amador and El Dorado counties. CAL FIRE is responsible for one of the three responsibility areas in California, the State Responsibility area (SRA), with local fire departments handling new fire starts in the Local Responsibility area (LRA) and federal agencies in charge of the Federal Responsibility Area (FRA).

California State Responsibility Area

Fire Weather Watch, Red Flag Warning days – The National Weather Service Sacramento (for our immediate area) or Reno (for the eastern sides of El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, and Sierra counties) determine if conditions warrant a Red Flag Warning or Fire Weather Watch.

  • Red Flag Warning: Take Action. Be extremely careful with open flames. NWS issues a Red Flag Warning, in conjunction with land management agencies, to alert land managers to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern. NWS issues a Red Flag Warning when fire conditions are ongoing or expected to occur shortly.
  • Fire Weather Watch: Be Prepared. A Watch alerts land managers and the public that upcoming weather conditions could result in extensive wildland fire occurrence or extreme fire behavior. A watch means critical fire weather conditions are possible but not imminent or occurring.

Evacuations Orders, Warnings and Advisories – Law enforcement, in conjunction with fire agencies will issue evacuation notifications. Sign up for emergency alerts and know the different levels:

Evacuation Order
An immediate threat to life. This is a lawful order to leave now. The area is lawfully closed to public access.

Evacuation Warning
A potential threat to life and/or property. Those who require additional time to evacuate, and those with pets and livestock should leave now.

Advisory
A notice to be on alert and follow county recommendations.

Clear To Repopulate
It is safe to return to your home. Be aware of your surroundings and go through the returning home checklist.

Shelter In Place
An order to go indoors. Shut and lock doors and windows. Prepare to self-sustain until further notice and/or contacted by emergency personnel for additional direction.

Normal
There is no current knowledge of threats affecting your area and that you can carry on with normal activity.

If you’d like, you can also sign up for YubaNet’s emergency text alerts – in case of a large incident developing, we’ll try to supplement the county’s alerts and share the latest information with you.

Should I stay or should I go?

Situational awareness, especially on Red Flag Warning days, is your responsibility. Take into account your unique situation. Do you need extra time to evacuate in case of a fire? Do you have pets or livestock that need to be corralled and loaded before you can leave? Are your Go Bags packed and ready and is every member of your household equipped with their copy of the Emergency Family Plan?

Any evacuation order means you have to leave, and leave right then. For your own safety, to enable firefighters to fight the fire without having to risk their lives to come and rescue people who refused to leave on time.

Leaving your home is scary, especially if it could be in harm’s way. However, if you do not feel safe, leaving early is ALWAYS an option.

Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) – Utility companies are using preventative power shutoffs to minimize the risk of fire s starting due to down power lines. Especially on hot, dry and windy days, you may get notified of a PSPS for your area. That decision is solely made by the utility.

Use the tools

To sum it up, agencies make decisions that raise awareness levels and will decide on evacuations. You then use the information provided by them to make an informed decision about your personal safety and the safety of your loved ones. The tools are available, please do not hesitate to use them.