If you happened to drive or walk through the western-most parts of Napa’s Browns Valley neighborhood Wednesday morning, you might have wondered if the world was coming to an end.
The roads were lined with fire engines and trucks, while police cruisers escorted residents out of their homes to an emergency shelter at the Crosswalk Community Church just west of Highway 29.
Fortunately for residents, they were never in danger. The activity was all part of a wildfire drill.
“One of the best things I’m seeing is there’s effective coordination between three agencies that are major players,” said interim Napa Fire Chief Mike Randolph, who, like every other participant, stayed in character throughout the hour-and-a-half long exercise.
“We’ve got CalFire because where the incident occurred is their responsibility. It’s burning into the city, which is our responsibility and we have law enforcement, sheriff and police, that are working together to conduct our evacuations.”
The city and county hold a joint, unified command drill annually to practice communication and response strategies in the event of an emergency that crosses the city/county border.
“We try to get our resources communicating and working as one team,” said CalFire representative Ryan Woessner.
At the roadside command center, the back ends of CalFire and Napa fire trucks were used as make-shift desks, with computers relaying dispatch information. Maps of the neighborhood were stuck to the sides of vehicles.
Police officers and sheriff deputies assisted roughly a dozen residents in the subdivisions south of Partrick Road to evacuate, while American Medical Response stood by in case medical emergencies arose.
Even a representative from Browns Valley Elementary School showed up to ask what should be done with the children. Of course, there were no children. It’s summer vacation. But for disaster drill purposes, the students were advised to stay inside the school.
East of the faux fire, the Napa County Chapter of the Red Cross had cots set up and food waiting at Crosswalk Community Church, one of 25 evacuation sites it has established in the county. A Pacific Gas & Electric employee was there to touch base on how the utility would work with the Red Cross in an emergency to bring in generators and/or liquid natural gas tanks to the shelter site.
The church also housed Community Action of Napa Valley volunteers, who updated their emergency volunteer lists and sent out a test email to alert potential volunteers they would be called into action via email in a real emergency.
The group runs the valley’s volunteer center during disasters. Potential volunteers would be interviewed for such assignments as cleaning up debris or answering phones.
Others participating in the drill included:
• the city’s Public Works Department;
• Office of Emergency Services;
• county animal control,
• Napa Valley Unified School District;
• Napa County Office of Education.
“It’s a great example of community participation, neighbor helping neighbor to understand what’s going on,” said Roger Archey of the Napa Communities Firewise Foundation. “None of us want to be in this position to have to do what we see happen today. But if it does happen, you can rest assured there are resources available to help all of us.”