City of Napa officials want to extinguish the fake news before it spreads like wildfire.
For example, a Facebook report on Tuesday falsely said Broadmoor Drive area in Browns Valley was burning. A resident said the looky-loos flocked to the area – 30 to 40 carloads of them -to watch the non-existent disaster.
The Partrick and Nuns fires weren’t immediately threatening the city of Napa and Browns Valley. As of Wednesday, no part of the city had been evacuated.
“All we ask is don’t spread rumors, don’t play with other people’s emotions and treat everybody respectfully,” Police Chief Steve Potter said.
Then there was the television news report that said city residents should boil their water before drinking it. In fact, the city had issued this order only for a fire-battered area mostly outside of city limits, much of it an evacuation area.
“Your water is safe,” Joy Eldredge, general manager of the city Water Division said. “It’s ready for drinking.”
City officials delivered these and other messages during a 1 p.m. Wednesday town hall meeting at Browns Valley Elementary School, with an encore session planned for 6 p.m. at City Hall. The city convened the meeting by social media only an hour before it started and enough residents responded to pack the auditorium and spill out the doors.
Potter didn’t sugarcoat the real, accurate information.
“Most fires of this size go for weeks, if not months,” he said to a few groans. “We need to plan for the long haul.”
The city is between the jaws of a fiery pincer. It has the Partrick, Nuns and Norrbom fires on the west side in the Mayacamas mountains and Carneros area and the Atlas fire to the east.
Napa Fire Chief Steve Brassfield said the city has significant buffers on both its west and east sides from the fires.
“Were hoping and praying those boundaries stay intact,” Brassfield said. “We have fire resources all around the city …. We have resources coming from both Oregon and Nevada, more federal resources coming.”
The weather unfortunately has changed 180 degrees every 12 hours or so in terms of the winds, Brassfield said. That means strategies to fight the fires have also had to constantly change.
People asked how an evacuation within city limits would work. City officials said they would communicate by Nixel and social media. They would, if necessary, go through neighborhoods using sirens and public address systems and knock on doors.
“Is there any fear of a potential mass exiting, and how to we manage such chaos?” a resident asked.
Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare, and have everything ready ahead of time, Potter said. People can also think ahead to what evacuation route they would take.
The presentation took place on a stage against a painted backdrop of a clear, blue sky with puffy, white clouds, perhaps from a student play. But the view out the door was only of a smoky haze that has suddenly become a way of life in Napa.