Grass Valley officials tackle emergency preparedness |

Grass Valley officials tackle emergency preparedness

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On June 10, from 6-7:30 p.m.. in the Board Chambers of the Rood Center, Nevada County Office of Emergency Services will present Ready, Set, Go! for Families.

In the last year, Nevada County residents have flocked to a series of wildfire preparedness events, many of which have been put on by Nevada County Office of Emergency Services.

On Thursday, Grass Valley’s police and fire departments teamed up to host a community forum specifically targeted at the city’s residents. As Fire Chief Mark Buttron explained, there are some distinctions between the city and the county — both from a risk standpoint and a regulation perspective.

“We live under the city’s municipal codes, which are different from county ordinances,” Buttron said of vegetation management and defensible space requirements.

Even though Buttron and Police Chief Alex Gammelgard said the forum was meant to enhance the community’s preparedness for any emergency, fire was at the forefront of the discussion.

Buttron first showed the crowd a fire history map for Butte County, then contrasted it with a similar Nevada County map.

“What happened in Paradise is on everybody’s mind,” he said, referring to last year’s Camp Fire.

While this area has some similarities, there are differences as well, Buttron added.

Only three significant fires have occurred in or near city limits in the last few years: one on South Auburn Street in 2016 that extended into Empire Mine State Park, and the McCourtney Road and Rex Reservoir fires in 2017.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared,” Buttron said.

Many of the tips discussed by Buttron and Gammelgard involve planning ahead for the entire family, down to pets.

“Plans don’t always go as planned,” Gammelgard said. “You need to talk about it to have the best possible outcome.”

The police chief advocated looping in family members out of the area and having a check-in process, so they could serve as a conduit of information if needed.

Both stressed situational awareness, especially during “red flag” alerts for dry, windy, hot weather.

“Nothing takes the place of just looking outside,” Buttron said. “Don’t wait to be told to evacuate. If you feel threatened, leave.”

Of course, families should have “go bags” ready by the door. But add cash — and make sure your vehicle has a full gas tank, because gas pumps and ATM machines might not be functional if the power is out. Drive all possible evacuation routes ahead of time and plan a worst-case-scenario “temporary refuge area” such as a parking lot with minimal vegetation.

Both Gammelgard and Buttron stressed that while residents don’t have to obey evacuation orders, they could be risking their lives.

“Wind changes everything,” Gammelgard said. “If there’s a wind-driven fire, you’ll get one warning … We won’t be coming back.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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