Navajo County Urges Residents to Prepare for Disaster | Apache County

“Every year we strive to educate our communities from one end of the community to the other,” said Janelle Linn, Navajo County director of public health. “This year arrives – we had several disasters, including the pandemic and forest fires.”

And with another spike in COVID cases in a poorly vaccinated community, not to mention the possibility of fresh scars being flooded again – we could be there.

“We could see a number of disasters this fall and next winter,” said Linn, whose division includes the county’s emergency management agency. “This morning we received word that our July floods had been cleared for a federal disaster statement in addition to a state statement. This is important to our homeowners and our communities as a whole. “

For example, the Navajo County Board of Supervisors dutifully declared the months of disaster risk reduction in September.

Granted, September is almost over. But the county has never been great to prepare for disasters early.

The county has yet to pass a Firewise ordinance requiring forested communities to prune brush and trees to prevent the type of blaze storm holocaust that devoured Paradise California and killed 85 residents as they fled the flames on the streets, blocked by sharp, burning trees. A recent study found that both Show Low and Pinetop Lakeside are at a much greater risk of fire than Paradise before it was destroyed.

In addition, the district still has to consider building regulations that would make new buildings fireproof. Flagstaff and Prescott have both passed extensive fire safety building codes. Such regulations focus on building materials, roof lines, overhanging canopies, porches, and other design features that can reduce the likelihood that a glowing storm from a distant wildfire will set multiple homes on fire at the same time. Studies show that flames in a house can easily spread from house to house and consume an entire block – especially when firefighters are trying to fight multiple fires at the same time.

Studies also show that these branded building codes don’t do much to build new homes, although retrofitting an existing home can prove costly. Therefore, most of these codes only apply to new buildings.

The board of directors adopted the resolution calling on everyone else to prepare for a disaster.

The proclamation states, “Preparing for disasters means protecting everyone you love, which applies to all citizens of our county.” The resolution called “on everyone to be prepared in advance for any unexpected disaster that may occur could occur “.

The proclamation urged residents to “follow the three principles of READY, SET, GO! Pay attention to significant dangers and evacuate immediately if there is a danger and is life-threatening. “

However, a practiced evacuation plan did not save Paradise. The ember storm set the city on fire while the flames front were miles away before officers could activate the evacuation plan. In addition, fires caused by the embers storm blocked evacuation routes, a careful analysis of the errors by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology revealed.

Unfortunately, the community had neither adopted a Firewise brush cleaning code nor a fire-proof construction code, so the point fires caused by the embers quickly overwhelmed the fire fighters and local residents.

The Camp Fire eventually consumed 18,000 buildings and 150,000 acres of drought-stricken forest, causing $ 1.7 billion in losses. The cleanup cost another $ 3 billion. The 2018 fire was driven through bone-dry forests at winds of 50 mph, according to the reconstruction of events in the 421-page report. The White Mountains faced similar conditions that summer before the onset of a blissful, wet monsoon ended the harrowing forest fire season.

The Forest Service now spends $ 2-4 billion fighting forest fires each year, but the losses continue to grow. The Camp Fire attracted 5,600 firefighters, 900 pieces of equipment and a small air force. But they still couldn’t save Paradise, Magalia and Concow – older communities with no WUI building codes or consistently enforced Firewise regulations. The communities were surrounded by thick forest that had not been burned or thinned for decades to slow the spread of flames or create a firebreak between the towns and the forest. Fragmented thinning projects, while protecting critical infrastructure, were not large enough to save the community in the face of extreme conditions.

Firefighters stressed that most of the fires in the city were started by embers that struck hundreds of houses, parked vehicles, furniture on porches, wooden fences on houses, open porches, unshielded vents in the attic, bushes on house walls, pine needles on roofs and others Drove. Entire blocks were on fire as the fire spread from house to house, though the burning front left the trees across the street intact.

Paradise and Butte Counties have been talking about fire hazards for years, the report said. They passed several programs to encourage people to turn their homes into Firewise, passed an ordinance allowing people to remove larger vegetation without a permit, and ran fuel treatments near schools, the irrigation district, and other critical infrastructure by – which largely served to protect these locations.

The county and city also rolled out a Reverse 911 system to automatically call people with emergency alerts, back up street lights with battery backups, clear streets of flammable debris, plan and practice evacuation procedures, and take other steps to keep yourself safe prepare the unthinkable.

But they never adopted fireproof building codes or asked for bush cleaning. They also did not prepare an evacuation center that would provide safe shelter for the trapped residents.

6.25 a.m.: First report of a fire on the west side of the Feather River.

7:00 am: fire escapes canyon.

7:23 am: Embers set fire to houses in Concow, five kilometers before the fire.

7:44 am: Embers kindles point fires in Paradise, 7 miles from the start of the fire.

8:30 am: At least 30 burning fire pits in Paradise, up to 2 miles within city limits.

8.45 a.m .: Embers had two separate fires 2 miles and 4 miles from the fire front.

10:00 am: Fires burn on both sides of several evacuation routes, locking residents in their cars, with the wind “blowing like a blowtorch”.

11:00 am: Flames, sometimes 50 meters long, continued to unpredictably block evacuation routes, leaving more evacuees fatally burned.

12:00: Fire has holed up ravines on all sides of the city, forcing firefighters trying to reach trapped people to retreat on many fronts.

3 p.m .: Fires across the city and downtown. On ridgetops, winds created flame lengths of 100 to 200 feet. In ravines, flames 10 feet long. Embers and flames threaten many houses.

17:00 The flame front reaches Concow with a flame length of 50 to 100 feet. Many houses are burning in paradise, trees have fallen over many evacuation routes.

Nightime, November 8th: Fire behavior is milder, but continues to stress structures.

November 9th: midnight to 8 a.m.

2 a.m. winds of up to 80 km / h blew embers the size of soft balls into new areas.

2-6: 44 a.m .: Fire consumes hundreds of buildings in Magalia and Concow. Retreating firefighters must drive through flames to reach safety zones.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other issues for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach out to him at [email protected]

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