Jerry Martin: Avoiding Paradise
December 26, 2018
The recent catastrophe in nearby Butte County is a clear wake up call which would be ignored only by irresponsible fools. Our recent meeting in the Rood Center confirms our collective concern. We are not fools, but need to get much better organized.
Here in Nevada County we have only one major natural threat. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, pestilence, tornadoes and volcanoes are not problems. Fire is our enemy, and increasing climate change will make wildfires more so.
Dealing with out-of-control wildfires has three components: prevention, extinguishment and evacuation. I have common sense ideas regarding the last two.
For evacuation, I believe that simple solutions are usually better. Sirens placed strategically around populated areas of our county would reach everyone quickly without high tech. Placed on fire stations and maybe schools, sirens could warn everyone of impending danger and the possible need to evacuate. These sirens can be easily heard a mile or two away, day or night, and are much more efficient and reliable than phone contacts or someone knocking on doors. Let's be smart.
There’s something about natural disasters that brings out the better angels of our human nature. That’s the silver lining to Paradise’s calamity.
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I suggest two noise patterns that would be easily recognized. The first, a warning to prepare to evacuate, might be beep-beeeeeep-beep-pause-beep-beeeeeep-beep-pause. This short, long, short pattern would be repeated for several minutes. Then, if evacuation becomes necessary, a second pattern of steady beep-beep-beep (short-short-short) would signal everyone to leave our dear homes and head for safety.
I believe these sirens should be centrally controlled and set off strategically in threatened areas only. If, for example, the fire is in Rough and Ready, sirens would go off there and not in Lake of the Pines or Nevada City. If the fire is moving towards Grass Valley, sirens could then sound there to warn residents.
We could test these sirens the first day of each month, at noon for warning and at 1 p.m. for the emergency evacuation. This would familiarize everyone with these two signals.
With wildfires, the public needs accurate communication. We'll need to know where and when. Both local radio stations, KVMR and KNCO, and our public access TV station, NCTV, can help. So can YubaNet and TheUnion.com.
Also, if evacuation becomes necessary, I believe an official should be at every major intersection to direct traffic in the proper direction so as to assure we escape and not drive into the fire.
Also, it would help if people carried chain saws to remove trees fallen across roads. Maybe a helicopter could carry men with chain saws to monitor and clear traffic jams caused by fallen trees.
As for extinguishing fires, we need our national military to reconsider and realize our substantial enemy now is wildfire. We have the biggest military in the world, by far, with many military bases scattered around California and the west, harboring many airplanes, helicopters and drones waiting to fight a war against attacking humans. Granted, their defensive presence assures against any foreign attack. But human enemies are unlikely to strike, while fire is inevitable. To be clear, I am not recommending military ground forces to fight fires. A vigorous aerial attack can stop fire's spread.
Currently, Nevada County has two planes equipped to deliver fire retardant and one helicopter to drop water. These are fine, but what if we had 200 of each, well coordinated to avoid accidents? Couldn't that stop a 10-acre fire quickly to prevent its spread to thousands of acres, taking human lives and many homes?
We need help against a new enemy that has become a much bigger threat. Let's be smart and get better use from our military. Converting older planes and helicopters would be effective. And maybe drones could be designed to fight fires, before the fires grow too big to control.
We need to recognize our current enemy and readjust our tax paid military strategy. Let's use our resources wisely, where they're effective. If we do, it's likely that insurance companies will give us home owners a break. This would be another advantage to wise preparation, even if we never suffer a major wildfire catastrophe.
We all love this area. Let's learn from and prevent another Paradise. We can if we're smart enough, get better organized and coordinated, and we cooperate. There's something about natural disasters that brings out the better angels of our human nature. That's the silver lining to Paradise's calamity.
Jerry Martin lives in Grass Valley.
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