Tahoe prepares for fire season with drill | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe prepares for fire season with drill

Isaac Brambila
Firefighters extend water lines while they develop a perimeter around a simulated fire during an evacuation drill Monday in Skyland.
Isaac Brambila/Tahoe Daily Tribune |

The flames were not real, but law enforcement and emergency personnel presence was heavily felt in several areas between Skyland and Zephyr Cove as several emergency agencies carried out a wildland fire evacuation drill June 8.

The drill, which was led by the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District and the Skyland Fire Adapted Community, rehearsed several different aspects of the emergency situation such as wildland firefighting efforts, coordinated evacuations, the emergency callback system, evacuation assistance to homes with special needs and the organization of an evacuation center.

The drill also served as practice to coordinate efforts with other agencies, which also participated in the drill, such as the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service and the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.

The scenario involved a wildland fire just south of Skyland. Fire engines arrived on scene and began fighting a simulated fire, taking the steps they would normally take in that situation. Initially, one engine was on scene, but later more support arrived.

The firefighters made first contact and ventured around the affected area creating a perimeter.

As they went farther into the woods, they extended their water lines and coordinated efforts to surround and contain the flames.

The scenario then dictated that the flames reached the south end of Skyland, where emergency personnel were working on defending structures and coordinating evacuation procedures at the single-exit neighborhood.

Roughly 40 households had agreed to participate in the drill and were set to evacuate their homes.

Law enforcement officers went door-to-door communicating to residents of the drill and giving instructions on how to proceed.

One of the points of focus for the drill was evacuation preparedness.

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Fire Adapted Communities handbook explains several steps of evacuation preparedness. First, it lists family emergency planning and preparation, which includes explaining dangers to children in emergency situations, knowing how to shut off water, gas and electricity in the home, choosing an out-of-town contact to facilitate communication in saturated areas and having a communication plan within the household. It also suggests keeping inventory of the home contents with photographs or video, identifying escape routes and preparing an “evacuated” sign for the home.

Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Eric Guevin also stressed the importance of closing garage doors and any point of entry to the home, as there could be flammable material inside that can catch fire with flying embers during a wildfire situation.

Furthermore, the handbook suggests preparing a to-go bag and a disaster kit.

A to-go bag should include clothing and toiletries, an inventory of the home’s contents, a flashlight, a portable radio and extra batteries, an extra set of car and house keys, an extra pair of eyeglasses and contact information for family, friends and physicians.

A disaster supply kit should include a gallon of water per person, per day, nonperishable packaged and canned food, antibacterial hand wipes or gel, at least one blanket or sleeping bag per person, a fire extinguisher, a large trash can, bar soap, liquid detergent, bleach, rubber gloves and duct tape.

At the evacuation center, which was located at Zephyr Cove Park, volunteers and personnel offered different services at several stations. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), for example, offered support for firefighters, including food and beverages, resting stations, and several health-monitoring services such as blood pressure monitoring and regulating.

They also offered cooling stations and sanitary equipment.

Additionally, the Lake Tahoe Humane Society was present, which would offer help for animals involved in an emergency situation.

The drill came as fire agencies around both California and Nevada are preparing for fire season. In California, and much of the Tahoe Basin, fire season is expected to be especially dangerous as the state experiences its fourth consecutive year of drought.

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