The morning briefing. Photo: YubaNet

NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. April 7, 2019 – Twenty-two agencies and organizations converged on the Lake of the Pines community today for the first Nevada County 2019 Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Drill. Close to 350 first responders and local volunteers participated in evacuation, structure protection and various firefighting techniques.

The drill also featured incidents within the incident, from vehicle accidents with electrical hazards (think golf cart vs a power pole) to active shooter (looting during an evacuation) and various medical emergencies.

During the initial briefing, Incident Commander Matt Wallen reminded the assembled participants of the main goals: seamless cooperation between different agencies, becoming familiar with the area and, most importantly,  execute the exercises as if this was a live incident.

In the terse language of the incident action plan, the management objectives were:

  • Always provide for participant and public safety
  • Ensure adequate notification is given to the public about the drill
  • Protect property, improvements and infrastructure
  • Ensure coordinated, timely and accurate release of public information
  • Build, foster and maintain cooperative relationships with all participants, stakeholders and the public
  • Actively participate in all drill exercises
  • Ensure Unified Command between Fire and Law Enforcement is maintained
  • Educate the public on fire safety, how to evacuate and defensible space needs

Code Red – this time it was just a drill

Nevada County uses CodeRED as their emergency notification system. Residents that sign up are notified of any emergency at the location(s) of their choosing, like home, work or family members’ homes.

Gate 1 funneling evacuation traffic onto Combie Road. Photo: YubaNet

At 9:30 am, the Office of Emergency Services sent notifications to LoP residents via email, voice call, text and TDD informing them of the drill and inviting them to participate by “evacuating”  the area. Out of 5,787 attempted connections, 1,251 were unreachable – either going to voicemail, no response, busy or disconnected numbers.

Law enforcement, CERT team members and the gated community’s private security service opened emergency gates and directed traffic on Combie Road.

Participating agencies

CAL FIRE NEU (Nevada Yuba Placer)

Higgins Fire

Nevada County Consolidated Fire District

Ophir Hill Fire

Peardale Chicago Park Fire

North San Juan Fire

Grass Valley/Nevada City Fire

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital

AMR Placer County

Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office

CHP Grass Valley

Nevada County Search and Rescue

Foothill Fire

Northstar Fire

Truckee Fire

Sacramento City Fire

Nevada County Fire Safe Council

Meanwhile engines and crews from area fire departments started hoselays around homes, built handlines to provide structure protection for participant residences all while maintaining communications with the Incident Command Post and each other.

Members of the Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team rescued “stand-in” pets and Search and Rescue volunteers participated in evacuation and medical drills.

Nevada County is one of the few more densely populated rural areas in California that has not burned yet, according to Matt Wallen.  “We have a lot going against us with climate change,” he said during the morning briefing.

Public participation

The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County was on hand to talk to residents about defensible space. Members of other Firewise communities made the trip to LoP’s drill to learn the intricacies of the operation and to get ready for their own drills.

The next exercise will take place on May 19th, with three Firewise Communities (Greater Champion Mine, Cement Hill and Lake Vera/Round Mountain) participating. Unlike the densely populated areas of LoP, parts of these areas are sparsely populated with larger parcels and several dead end roads.

Lake of the Pines residents were seen trimming trees and removing brush and down branches while the exercise was ongoing. Many also availed themselves of the various information packets prepared by OES and the Fire Safe Council. Taking personal responsibility and pr

paring for the upcoming fire season is in everyone’s best interest. “You provide the defense, we provide the offense” is more than just a slogan for firefighters. If a house has good defensible space and access, firefighters will prioritize defending the home over another with overgrown vegetation up to the house and poor signage.

Stay informed

Monthly Wildfire Preparedness Speaker Series workshops are held in the Board Chambers of the Rood Center. On April 15th, at 6:00 pm, Situational Awareness will be the topic. Register for Code Red emergency alerts, learn more about Red Flag Warnings, and create a plan for possible Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). The Nevada County Office of Emergency Services will review the importance of maintaining a variety of tools in your fire preparedness toolbox, including battery powered radios, landlines, charged cell phones, a full tank of gas, fully stocked Go-Bag, phone trees, carpool partners, phone trees, and devices connected to Code Red emergency alerts.

YubaNet’s series Ready for Fire Season is designed to give you tips and bite-size tasks every week to be ready when a wildfire will impact our area.

LOP WUI Drill photo gallery