City and county officials held an online town hall meeting Tuesday night to inform American Canyon residents about the nearby fires and how best to respond if danger heads in their direction.
Using Facebook video and conference calling, Fire Chief Glen Weeks, Chief of Police Tracey Stuart, County Supervisor Belia Ramos and others tried to calm any concerns people might have about the Atlas Fire, whose smoke from its southern flank has been visible at times from American Canyon.
“The problems are well to the north of us,” said Weeks. “That’s the message I want to convey to the community of American Canyon.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of good news,” he added, “but if you’re living in American Canyon that’s good news in itself.”
“You’re in the area that’s most secure from the fire,” said Ramos.
Noticeably absent from the town hall was City Manager Dana Shigley. She stepped down from her position Tuesday at the request of the City Council following her announcement last month that she was retiring.
Stuart told listeners that if they encounter any road closures due to the fires, they should “obey the officers and don’t try to drive up the road.”
If motorists get in the way they could prevent firefighters from getting to the fires, Stuart warned, who said the closures weren’t just to prevent people from getting into a location, but to keep the roads open for emergency crews and evacuating residents.
Stuart also took time to explain the differences between voluntary and mandatory evacuation notices, should any be issued for American Canyon.
“Voluntary means we’re a little worried about your area,” said Stuart. But, she added, if someone has a medical condition, a voluntary evacuation is a good time to pack up and go instead of waiting around for things to worsen.
Mandatory evacuation, the chief said, “means the fire is coming towards you .… This is a wind-driven fire and that means it moves fast. If we give you a mandatory evacuation, you need to leave immediately.”
She said such orders would likely include information on what direction to go, or the location of emergency shelters.
Stuart also told residents that a good way to stay informed on emergencies was to subscribe to Nixle, the public safety communications alert system.
Those wishing to receive Nixle alerts can do so by texting to 888777 and including in the message the ZIP codes for Napa (either 94558 or 94559).
“You’ll get every message we send out about fire updates,” said Stuart. “That’s the best way to stay in touch.”
Ramos said people could follow her on Facebook, where she will provide updates on the county fires.
“I will get you the latest info I have possible,” she said.
Officials also discussed plans to help out parents in light of the decision to cancel all schools this week by the Napa Valley Unified School District.
Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright said the city in conjunction with the American Canyon Boys and Girls Club will host activities in the Community Gym all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“If you need a place for kids to go, they will have activities at the gym,” said Wright.
The Community Gym is located at 100 Benton Way.