A Tale of Two Wildfires

A Tale of Two Wildfires
Marjorie King

On Feb. 26, 2006, a wall of fire driven by 55 mile per hour winds was bearing down on the Mt. Shasta Vista subdivision. Then-Deputy Sheriff Ron Quigley was one of several brave souls who put themselves in danger to warn residents. Navigating 65 miles of narrow roadways that snake through the heavily fueled and sparsely populated community, they went door to door urging evacuation. Panicked residents were soon fleeing, passing incoming fire trucks at speeds much greater than the posted 15 mph limit. They were escaping the Hotlum Fire. When the smoke cleared, 3019 acres were blackened. Four structures, including one home, were gone. There were no injuries or fatalities.

Fast-forward to Sept. 15, 2014. Quigley was now Deputy Director of Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services (OES). Thousands of Siskiyou County residents were threatened by a fast-moving firestorm  the Boles Fire.  Siskiyou County officials logged into their CodeRed account, designated a target area on an online map, and crafted a message. They hit “send” and alerts were sent. People in Weed and surrounding communities received the ominous news. Homes, schools and businesses were evacuated with remarkable expediency. When the blaze had passed, 561 acres were charred, 157 residences and eight commercial buildings were destroyed, but no human lives were lost.

Quigley explained the state-of-the-art system at a recent meeting of the Juniper Flat Fire Safe Council. CodeRed is a worldwide emergency communications network available to government agencies, businesses and institutions that may need to notify many people quickly. Siskiyou County officials, after researching a number of other emergency notification options, began using the system in 2013. Since then, the system has been activated to warn locals of numerous fires and criminal activities.

According to Siskiyou County’s website: “This service can be used in case of fires, chemical spills, evacuations, lockdowns, downed power lines, lost individuals, natural disasters, abductions, water system problems, bomb threats, or other emergencies. Calls can be geographically targeted for localized messaging. If widespread, the entire community could be called within 20 to 30 minutes. The system also reports who did not get a call, so that they may be contacted by other means.”

The system automatically dials publically available phone numbers within a target area, but cannot access unlisted phone numbers, cell phone or VoIP (voice over IP) numbers, so it is especially important for those who rely on such numbers to register.

Registration is confidential, free, and easy. You may enter as many phone numbers and email addresses as you wish. Landline telephones will receive recorded voice messages. Cell phones and email addresses will receive text messages. Quigley recommends entering home, business and cell phones and email addresses for all family members.

If your cell phone number has a local – 530 – area code, sign up on Siskiyou County’s web site at http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/content/codered-emergency-alert-system. You will receive all notices sent out via the Siskiyou County system regardless of where you are. If you have a different area code, you can download a mobile app that will allow you to receive alerts in any area where CodeRed is active, including Siskiyou County.

The system has telecommunications device/text telephone for the deaf (TDD/TTY) capability. Messages are sent out only in English. If you are bilingual and have friends, neighbors or relatives who do not speak English, you can relay information to them.

If you wish to sign up but do not have Internet access, you may call Lynn Corliss, PHN, Emergency Response Coordinator, Siskiyou County Public Health, at (530) 841-2130.

OES Deputy Director Ron Quigley is available to make presentations to your fire safe council, civic organization or other group. Contact him at (530) 841-2155 or rquigley@co.siskiyou.ca.us.

Juniper Flat Fire Safe Council meets on the second Monday of each month, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Big Springs Church, 7220 Highway A12. For information, call George Jennings at (530) 598-8887.

Copyright Marjorie King
All Rights Reserved

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