Wildfires bring state of emergency to Lake and Napa Counties

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Residents of California’s “Gold Country,” Lake County and Napa Valley in particular, have had to flee their homes as the Valley Fire advanced across their area. The fire spread much faster than anticipated and firefighting authorities have not been able to move their assets into place fast enough to keep pace with the blaze.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake and Napa Counties this morning (Sunday, Sept. 13).

Lake Fire2In his declaration Governor Brown said that he had already declared a state of emergency in January 2014 due to the extreme drought and it was one of the factors contributing to the intensity of this wildfire in particular.

“WHEREAS on September 12, 2015, the Valley Fire started in Lake County and spread into Napa County, and has rapidly burned thousands of acres of land and continues to burn … this fire has destroyed multiple structures, including homes, and continues to threaten hundreds of homes, necessitating the evacuation of residents; this fire has damaged and continues to threaten critical infrastructure, and has forced the closure of major highways and local roads … a Federal Fire Management Assistance Grant has been requested and approved for the Valley Fire burning in Lake and Napa counties … on January 17, 2014, I declared a State of Emergency based on the extreme drought that has caused millions of trees to die, and increased the severity and spread of the fires throughout the State …”

In the declaration the governor ordered three things:

  1. All agencies of the state government utilize and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan. Also, all citizens are to heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.
  2. The California National Guard shall mobilize under California Military and Veterans Code section 146 (mobilization in case of catastrophic fires) to support disaster response and relief efforts and coordinate with all relevant state agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and all relevant state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas.
  3. The Orders and provisions contained in Executive Order B-33-15, dated August 27, 2015, remain in full force and effect and apply to Valley Fire in Lake and Napa counties.

People have been fleeing with very few belongings to evacuation centers set up by the Red Cross and others. Some residents don’t know if their homes are still standing while others know for sure their homes are “gone,” as one resident put it.

Months ago it was declared this would be a long and terrible wildfire season, due primarily to the drought. There are several other fires still burning in the state and in fact on Friday, September 11, the governor declared a state of emergency for Amador and Calaveras Counties due to the Butte Fire, which has now burned more than 65,000 acres and is only 20 percent contained.

The Rough Fire has now burned over 128,000 acres, tearing through Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

Water Tanker1In all the fires evacuations have been ordered and firefighting resources have been called up from all areas of the state.

The one hope for California and the rest of the West Coast is that climatologists and meteorologists are predicting a very strong El Niño this year that could bring record-breaking rainfall to the state. Although it would put an end to the wildfires, it would also bring its own set of natural calamities as once dry land becomes over-saturated with water, causing landslides.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the El Niño will begin in late fall and continue through early spring of 2016.

If you haven’t done so already: no matter where you live in California have a “go bag” packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Many people have not had time to pack anything before they were forced from their homes. Pack important documents in that “Go Bag,” especially insurance papers, property ownership papers; anything that will identify you as a resident of the area being evacuated.

The prediction is: this wildfire season will get worse before it gets better so you should be prepared.

(All photos via YouTube)