Sonoma County unveils new evacuation zone map as preparations accelerate for fire season

Emergency officials hope the people of Sonoma County can spare a tiny bit of memory for a very important fact.

They want all residents to learn the name of the evacuation area where they live so they can act quickly in the event of a disaster. And while they’re there, people should also learn about the area for their workplaces and their children’s schools, officials said.

The county and its nine cities have collaborated on a newly created map that divides each jurisdiction into officially defined and labeled leaflets intended to expedite evacuation notices and public action in the event of a forest fire, flood, earthquake. earth or any other crisis. There is also a new online search tool for you to use now to find out in advance which area is, although the residents of Santa Rosa, whose evacuation map debuted last year, already know. theirs.

“In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, knowing your area in advance will help you gather your household and belongings and evacuate quickly,” said Adriane Mertens, city spokesperson. “You don’t have to worry about determining your evacuation zone because you’ve posted it on your refrigerator, on your phone, or in your memory.”

The mapping effort, led by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, has been underway for more than a year, starting after the Kincade fire of October 2019 and the historic displacement of some 190,000 people feared. be in danger at the height of the 77,758 acre blaze. Unprecedented evacuation orders have arrived from Healdsburg and Windsor east of Highway 101 to the Sonoma Coast.

Mass evacuations began three days after the wildfire began near Geyserville and two years after the devastating North Bay Firestorm in 2017, which left 24 people dead and destroyed 5,300 homes in Sonoma County.

In the Kincade fire, increasingly dire forecasts calling for extreme winds with gusts of up to 80 mph led fire experts to fear the flames were moving west from the Mayacamas Mountains. across much of the county.

Sheriff Mark Essick imposed a succession of evacuation orders developed at the wildfire command post in consultation with Cal Fire and defined by roads and highways, often resulting in confusing instructions and descriptions.

Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose western county district has been rocked by far-reaching orders, said the curved roads and cardinal directions made it particularly difficult to detail these things to the public – and especially to the in the midst of an emergency, both for locals and those coming from outside the region.

“Also, the fact that we have, in some cases, roads with the same name but one road, one lane, one avenue. It can also create confusion, ”she said. “And to be perfectly honest, there are people who don’t know if they live inside or outside the city limits. This happens all the time in western Santa Rosa and Sevastopol.

Having a place to plug in a house number or just look up a map makes things clear for residents while streamlining internal operations in the midst of a disaster, she said.

Essick was captain in 2017 when the Tubbs fire swept overnight from Calistoga to Mayacamas and Sonoma County, leveling neighborhoods in the communities of Mark West and Larkfield and destroying much of Fountaingrove and almost all of Coffey Park . County managers then began to think about better ways to handle the mass evacuations.

“Then after the Kincade fire in 2019, it really cemented our desire, our idea and our urgent need to have a standardized evacuation map for the whole county, so we started, even during the cleanup period. du Kincade, ”he said. .

County towns have been encouraged to do the same.

A draft map had been developed when the LNU Lightning Complex fire broke out last August, so the sheriff’s office went ahead and used the newly designated areas to evacuate residents in and around Walbridge Fire Road west of Healdsburg and north of Guerneville. , although they had hoped to submit the mapping for community input first.

Mertens said public safety, traffic engineering and GIS mapping personnel in Santa Rosa began work on a more standardized approach to evacuations in the summer of 2019 and released their map last August. , during the fire at the LNU complex. It was used for the glass fire, which would cross the ridge line to east of Santa Rosa at the end of September.

That map remains unchanged, she said, as the county has since changed the map it used in last year’s fires, making small changes to staff traffic control sites more effectively. and patrolling 210 evacuation areas and taking into account such things as the location of the Russian River and streams. increase during heavy rains, as fires are not the only reasons evacuations are necessary.

They also take into account and reflect, to some extent, existing patrol beats, so evacuation deputies know the areas, said Jeffrey DuVall, deputy director of the Sonoma County Emergency Management Department.

But the changes mean everyone should check the new formal map to make sure they know which area is theirs. They can also use the online tool or call 211 to find out.

Residents are also encouraged to obtain a printed evacuation tag from the sheriff’s office to hang outside their home in the event of an evacuation, saving a Member of Parliament wasting time checking whether a house is empty.

“I’m just really happy that this project is here,” said DuVall. “This will be a great tool for our community to reference and use for planning purposes, to plan their exit from their homes and out of their communities.

You can contact editor Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or [email protected] On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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