“California’s emergencies and disasters include wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, mudslides and more. Local officials and public safety professionals recognize that we need to take a new approach when addressing disaster preparedness, recovery and resilience, particularly in the wake of the numerous major wildfires that have ravaged California in recent years. In response, the League made this a strategic goal in 2019: Improve disaster preparedness, recovery and climate resiliency.
Every disaster, whether it’s a wildfire, earthquake, flood, mudslide or other event, has three phases: before, during and after.
The Pre-Event Perspective
What can we do before an event occurs to prevent it or minimize the impact on the community if it cannot be prevented? Such activities cover everything from putting emergency notification systems in place to community planning and making sure building and fire codes for homes in the wildland-urban interface are adopted and implemented. (It’s important to note that the code is the minimum acceptable standard.)
In the case of earthquakes, pre-event issues include structure hardening — improving a building’s ability to withstand severe shaking — and establishing evacuation routes for the community. Evacuation routes present challenges for communities where routes in and out are limited and roads may be narrow, especially in more rural areas.
The amount of combustible material in the path of a fire is called the fuel load. With respect to wildfires, we are seeking ways to better manage the fuel load so that if a fire occurs, it doesn’t become so charged with energy and fast-growing that human intervention cannot stop it. Efforts to manage the fuel load over time have been limited by the existing air quality and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) standards. In short, prescribed burns will not be approved if there is not sufficient wind to dissipate smoke; however, to effectively control the burn, the amount of wind must be limited…”
Read the full article written by Chief Michael McLaughlin on the Western City
Michael McLaughlin is fire chief for the Cosumnes Fire Department, serving the cities of Elk Grove and Galt, and past president of the League’s Fire Chiefs Department. He also serves as legislative director for the California Fire Chiefs Association and as California director for the Western Fire Chiefs Association. McLaughlin can be reached at [email protected].