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Local News

Sherwood Firewise looks back at Oak Fire evacuation

September 17, 2020 — After last week’s evacuation from Brooktrails during the Oak Fire, Sherwood Firewise held an after-action review at its regularly scheduled meeting. Keith Rutledge, who’s on the Sherwood Firewise steering group, said about fifty evacuees attended the zoom meeting last Thursday. The successful use of the Firco road, one of the evacuation routes that’s been established over the past two years, was a major bright spot. And, while everyone got the message to get out, members had suggestions for improving communications during the evacuation, like a website or cell phone number where people could enter their addresses to find out if they could go back home yet.

As far as livestock, most large animals were outside the evacuation zone, though there were centers for them at the Willits High School ag center and the arena at the Willits Junior Horsemen’s Association. Rutledge said that last year, Sherwood Firewise hosted a large animal rescue class. The main takeaway, he said, was getting animals used to loading up, whether it’s a crate or a horse trailer, well before disaster strikes, so the exit is as panic-free as possible.

Rutledge also said he was paying close attention to the scanner while he was waiting for the all clear, and he did hear law enforcement patrolling the area. 

Mathew Caine, the program coordinator with Sherwood Firewise, added that most of the people who evacuated Brooktrails reported that they were able to stay with friends and family in safer neighborhoods, rather than availing themselves of the Red Cross shelters. And he’s gotten a few promising volunteer prospects since the fire and evacuation. But fire season has just gotten started. 

It’s not the time to relax yet. Sherwood Firewise is continuing to work on vegetation management, chipper days, and maintaining roads. And there is still time to apply through the Mendocino Firesafe Council to get a crew to work on your property for free, if you’re eligible.

Local News