By Sandi Bush
Grizzly Flat Fire Safe Council
It’s 96 degrees on Tuesday, Sept. 3, around 2:30 p.m. and there is a steady northwest wind blowing at 28 mph, with some gusts up to 40 mph.
The end of the Labor Day Weekend finds many residents in Grizzly Flat at home adding one more day to the holiday. Leoni Meadows Camp is full to capacity with some 500 campers and 100 staff members.
Most Grizzly Flat “weekenders” are already packed and headed down the hill, when Susan Foster steps out onto her back deck on Tyler Drive and is greeted by a huge plume of smoke coming from the north on the Tyler Ranch. She hears her neighbors yelling about the smoke as she dials 911.
Chief Bob Gill of Pioneer Fire Protection District (PFPD) with engine 38 is first on the scene.
That was the scenario created by Mark Almer, chairman of the Grizzly Flat Fire Safe Council, for the council’s table-top drill exercise in April. Sixteen different agencies participated, working their way through the drill as if it were a real-time, real-life emergency.
Chief Bob Gill of PFPD and Battalion Chief Charlie Blankenheim of Cal Fire ran a shared Incident Command Center (ICC) located at Grizzly Flat Community Church on Sciaroni Road.
As with real-life emergencies, the two-hour exercise included multiple developments for the ICC to deal with as the fire worked its way through the area known as Unit 2 on Tyler Drive towards the community water district plant.
The incidents tested the resources of those agencies participating in the paper exercise. Firefighters responded to structure fires, including one with a family trapped inside. A car accident victim required a helicopter evacuation.
As the fire raged east toward the area known as Unit 4, on Winding Way, the order was given to evacuate Leoni Meadows Camp. Transporting 600 people was a good test for the exercise and required the cooperation of multiple agencies to accomplish.
Although this was a paper drill the scenarios were very real and vividly represented what could happen in a wildfire.
During the critique following the drill, there were many shared ideas and comments on how to deal with specific challenges presented in the exercise to the different agencies who participated. It was determined that an exercise of this type should be done every three to five years.