Chico Fire Department rolls out new wildfire plan

The department is using lessons learned from the Stoney Fire and Camp Fire to be better prepared this wildfire season.

Posted: May 6, 2019 3:57 PM
Updated: May 6, 2019 5:36 PM

Chico, Calif.-- "I saw the firefighters come in and they gave me a lot of confidence that they were going to be able to stop it but it was still very nerve-wracking," said Jennifer Davis.

Davis stood and watched as the Stoney Fire came within yards of her Chico home last July.

"We have the terrain and fuels so it was able to burn very close to the structures here," said Chico Fire Division Chief Jesse Alexander.

The 1000 acre fire was the largest in city history. It threatened hundreds of homes.

Firefighters saved every one.

But the Camp Fire changed everything.

"I didn't think the fire would come into Paradise, you live there a long time and there were fires, but never in town, so I wasn't prepared for that day," said Frank Jenks, who lost his home in the Camp Fire.

the Chico Fire Department has a new wildfire plan, focusing especially on the eastern part of town.

"We analyzed the fuels, terrains and the dump rate of vehicles to be able to get out - the evacuation zones are very small so we can get people out quickly," said Alexander.

Because so many people were confused about their zones during the Camp Fire, Chico Fire they'll make sure you know when to go.

"You'll receive a Code Red notification and just follow the instructions on it. You don't need to be concerned about what zones you're in," said Alexander.

Their request? Listen.

"Twice in the past year, I was placed in the position of going back in - knowing that the odds were not good of getting back out - to remove people who refused to leave. On behalf of every firefighter's family, when you get those instructions, follow them and please leave immediately," said Alexander.

"The first time that we packed to leave I wasn't ready at all, and I grabbed a lot of stuff I didn't need. But after seeing the Camp Fire, and what we went through this last year, I know to grab just a few things and get out. Get out of the way and let the firemen do their jobs."

"We're in the process of doing wildland training. But fire season pretty much goes most of the year so we're constantly working on that element of our game," said Alexander.

One simple but crucial thing that anyone can do is to create defensible space around your home.

"Give firefighters a fighting chance to protect their house," said Alexander.

Davis says plans to clear brush in the coming weeks.

"I feel safe here... As long as we do our job and keep it trimmed, keep that defensible space, I think we're going to be fine," said Davis.

Chico Fire is hosting a town-hall style meeting on their new plan on May 13th at 6 p.m. at Canyon Oaks.

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