Editor’s Note: Nevada County resident, Brian Gibb, posted the following statement to the Facebook discussion group “Happening Now.” He kindly gave me permission to reprint it here.
EVACUATION PLANNING: WHERE TO GO?
I posted on this page a few days ago about the urgent need for a mass community evacuation plan so that we do not suffer the fate of Paradise. There is an incredible amount of useful information online about how to make your own home fire-safer and what to have packed ready to go in case you do need to leave your house.
What is missing is a detailed plan on how our community could best organize in order to provide either fire-safe gathering areas in Grass Valley and Nevada City (and elsewhere in the county) and how to handle the chaotic situation that thousands of cars leaving simultaneously would cause on our local narrow roads.
Nevada County’s Office of Emergency Services is the department responsible for preparing emergency plans and coordinating the multiple agencies and first responders that would be needed in a major fire. You can see their website here:
Although the website has a document called Mass Evacuation, it is mainly an outline of the organization and responsibilities of the primary agencies. It is not a guide to the community about how to behave and where to go if fire threatens our towns.
It’s obvious to us all that our local major roads could be easily blocked as they are all 2 lane roads. Having 4 lanes on Highway 49 (southbound) and Highway 20 (westbound) would double the traffic that could escape quickly. However, that will take time, a lot of money and state help to bring about.
But in this post I want to focus on what each of our towns and county could do very quickly NOW to save thousands of lives without much expenditure or time needed. We need to designate large community gathering areas in each town which could be more easily defended from fire and which would be easy to access. We might not have enough fire fighters or time to defend every street but we could focus on a few defensible areas where thousands could come together quickly, without much driving.
Some of the main criteria for choosing these places would be absence of nearby trees; large paved areas for parking, large buildings for taking shelter in and having access to food and water; central locations along or close to the Golden Chain Highway (Hwy 49); close to hospital and/or fire stations.
A few examples. 1. In Nevada City, SPD on Zion St and the surrounding business district on Argall Way and Searles Avenue. 2. The county offices, jail and public library on Maidu Avenue, off 49.
In Grass Valley. 1. Brunswick basin by Safeway and CVS and other large chain stores. 2. Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital grounds. 3. Veterans Hall downtown 4. Pine Creek Shopping Center (from Raleys up to Kmart).
In Paradise, many of those declared dead and many of the 1,200 missing are elderly, infirm or lacked transport. Many of these local gathering points could become places where people in these categories could be easily transported, or walk to, especially if our towns or neighborhoods set up “buddy” arrangements so that people can partner with neighbors to offer or get rides if there is a need to evacuate.
If firefighting resources can be centered on these large community gathering places, many lives would be saved and it would also alleviate the inevitable congestion that would occur if everyone simply tries to get out of town fast.
Last word for now.
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Comments from Brian’s readers included these thoughts:
” … Bear River high school might be another good location for the south part of Nevada County.”
” … During the Oroville Dam Flood evacuation last year it took us 5 hours to get from western Yuba City to the town of Sutter (5 miles)!!!”
” … Existing neighborhood associations could also meet and identify residents who might need help evacuating, routes for driving, for walking or on bicycle or horseback, and phone trees for local communication.”
” … First thing that needs to get going is harden the electrical grid so it doesn’t start a fire, lots more vegetation management, and better secured power lines to withstand wind and any objects hitting them.”
Heidi Hall: “There will be a County community meeting in early December to discuss what the County is doing and look at what else we can do. Stay tuned.”