Wildfire trends indicate Northern California is in ‘a deadly situation’

Monday’s town hall on wildfire preparedness was hosted by Sen. Bill Dodd. Panelists stressed everyone needs to do their part to prevent fires.|

On the eve of a wind event that has elevated fears about ongoing, as well as potential wildfires, experts stressed that everyone must help to minimize the threat that’s already impacted the North Bay.

“When you think it’s not going to happen in your community, you’re probably wrong,“ California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said Monday night during a virtual town hall presentation hosted by state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa.

The hourlong event, which was broadcast live on Dodd’s Facebook page, YouTube and on his Senate homepage and simulcast on KSVY 91.3 FM, featured a panel of experts who briefly touched on the recurrence of wildfires in Northern California, which are becoming all too common in the region.

“We need to be prepared and part of that is being able to harden our home and understand evacuation orders, evacuation timing,” Ghilarducci said. “And if you’re told to move out, we want people to move out.“

He added that current fire trends are “a serious matter. It’s a deadly situation.“

Meteorologists have predicted strong winds will reach Northern California Tuesday night, forcing officials to take myriad precautions to prevent the spread of ongoing wildfires and the creation of new ones.

The National Weather Service has placed parts of Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties under a fire weather watch. while Pacific Gas & Electricity Company announced it might begin emergency power shut-offs to as many as 48,000 customers across 18 counties, including Sonoma, to reduce the threat of fires caused by PG&E equipment.

Marybel Batjer, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, noted that PG&E and other utility agencies are required to submit fire prevention plans and maintain infrastructure, particularly those in fire-prone areas.

And, anytime power shut-offs are discussed, she said, utility agencies need to consider the affect such discussions have on customers.

“It’s not only a measurement of the grid; it’s a measurement of public safety,” Batjer said. “If you don’t know the fire’s coming and if you can’t get a clear signal through your cell phone and if you can’t talk to first responders, you’re in danger.“

On several occasions, panelists referenced the Dixie fire, which has burned nearly 890 miles, as of Monday, in and around the Plumas and Lassen national forests and wiped out the town of Greenville since it began July 13.

Wind has played a role in spreading flames and it’s indicative of why Tuesday’s weather is being taken seriously.

“That not only can start new fires, but it can make existing fires worse,“ Ghilarducci said of the predicted wind event.

Panelists took questions during the second half of Monday’s discussion and one of the last callers said that firefighters need to be paid well. None of the panelists said she was wrong.

“We would all agree firefighters deserve a decent wage, a livable wage,” Batjer said.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi.

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