Preparing for Wildfire Season in Nevada County – Week 13: Neighborhood awareness

A rural road during a 2017 fire.

NEVADA CITY, Calif. March 4, 2019 – Your neighborhood, a familiar landscape you see every day. How well do you know it and what can you do to improve it?

Knowing your neighborhood

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Next time when you sit in the passenger seat, instead of looking at the road, look up. Are trees leaning over the roadway or power and phone lines crossing overhead? Then, look around.

Are there wooden fences that could catch fire easily and block the road, brush or trees restricting the roadway? Do you have a clear view of oncoming traffic,  can you see traffic coming towards the intersection?  How many sidestreets or connecting roads on your way out of the neighborhood?

Most of us drive the same route every day to get home. Take a few hours and identify alternate routes if possible. Depending on the direction and rate of spread of a fire, your normal route out may be blocked. Ideally, drive the alternate routes both during day and nighttime. Wildfire smoke obscures the sky rapidly and you could be driving through dense smoke with almost no visibility. [excerpt from Week 8 of this series]

Should you have fire hydrants in your immediate vicinity, consider “adopting a fire hydrant” and clear vegetation around it.

If you live on a county-maintained road and have concerns about roadside vegetation or signage/striping, you can submit a service request through the AskNevCo app or on the county’s website. The county’s right of way is fairly narrow, but nothing prevents a property owner from clearing further away from the roadside.

On private roads, pooling resources to maintain the road and clear brush can be done through a road association. As always, talking to your neighbors is the best first step.

Pattern recognition

The more familiar you are with your neighborhood, the easier it will be to notice a change in wind/smoke direction, identify possible bottlenecks during an evacuation and do something about them – as a neighborhood.

Make sure your neighbors are signed up for emergency alerts

Talk to your neighbors about emergency preparedness, especially if they are new to the area. Ask if they signed up to receive emergency alerts through CodeRED, if they haven’t yet encourage them to do so here: https://www.mynevadacounty.com/1293/CodeRED-Emergency-Alerts. If they need signup assistance, residents with 530 area codes can dial 2-1-1 (dial 1-844-319-4119 with an outside area code) to talk to someone over the phone who can help sign up for CodeRED Emergency Alerts.

Recommend they add CodeRED’s two phone numbers 1(866) 419-5000 and 1(855) 969-4636 to their cell phone and/or landline contacts as “CodeRED Emergency Alerts.” When receiving a phone call from either of those phone numbers during an emergency, they’ll recognize the call as a CodeRED alert rather than a telemarketer.

Amplify official alerts with a phone tree/buddy system

Several neighborhoods, often with the help of their local Firewise Community, are setting up neighborhood alert systems. Phone trees or more elaborate “buddy systems” – where a group of people will alert and check on each other in case of emergency – are one way to supplement the official emergency alerts and make sure everyone has time to leave safely. More densely populated neighborhoods are even contemplating sirens or reflective signage on roadways. If this makes sense in your neighborhood, have a neighborhood meeting or get involved in your local Firewise Community.

Invite the neighbors and have a free defensible space advisory visit

The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County offers free defensible space advisory visits by trained volunteers. Invite your neighbors to join up for a visit and learn about defensible space. You’ll also learn about the various programs the Fire Safe Council has to help your neighborhood become more firesafe.

Who knows, maybe you’ll start your own Firewise Community. Recently, the first in the Wildfire Preparedness Speaker Series featured two great speakers talking about: “Get Firewise, Organize!” In case you missed the presentation, here is a short PowerPoint presentation on the topic. The next workshop will be held on March 25th with a focus on defensible space.

Consider car pooling in an emergency

Once an evacuation order is given, don’t wait – leave immediately. Your Go Bag will be ready and you practiced getting your family and pets safely out of the house. Do you have room for more people in your vehicle? Consider carpooling with neighbors, especially seniors. Fewer cars on the road means less congestion and less risk of accidents.

Neighborhood work parties

Cutting roadside brush on private roads, pulling Scotch Broom, helping an elderly neighbor deal with an overgrown property are only some ideas for work parties. Working together for the common good also beings benefits for you – the safer the neighborhood, the safer you are too. PS: Don’t forget food and drink for any work party 😉

This concludes Week 13 of 25, next Monday we’ll have tips on wood stoves and outdoor fire safety.

Find previous stories in our special Ready for Fire Season section.

1 COMMENT

  1. Concerning Code RED calls and texts… Not only include the two Code RED numbers in your contacts (as stated in this article), but flag them as favorites/family so if your phone is in the DO NOT DISTURB mode (such as overnight) the Code REDS calls and/or texts will still alert you.

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