Subject: Briefing Memorandum on Napa County Wildfires
Multiple wildfires increasingly threaten Napa County residents, the environment, and property. In particular, the western portion remains the hardest-hit region, with lightning strikes, hot weather, and dry vegetation playing a central role in igniting these fires. The ongoing fires have presented the county with a rapidly evolving, uncertain, and dynamic situation. For instance, the Glass Fire has negatively affected the county’s wine sector by destroying over 67,000 acres of land, including major grape plantations. By October 7, up to 630 residences were decimated by the raging fires. This means viticulture, the county’s main economic driver, has been dealt a significant blow thus far.
Consequently, this memo’s targeted audience is elected officials tasked with spearheading policy changes and representing people’s interests. In particular, the key messages of this memo include the following:
- Current mitigation strategies used in addressing the wildfires.
- Information sharing, including primary communication tools and methods
- Best practices, that is, lessons learned from past natural hazards.
In response to the complexities that have accompanied the fires, the county has expanded its communication system to include the following methods:
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat
- Official hotlines: CALFIRE and Napa County Public Information Line.
- Digital signs: To provide warnings and direct residents on safer routes.
- Conference calls and webinars: Frequent webinars and conference call to facilitate updates.
- Mainstream/traditional media: TV & Radio networks.
- Email distribution lists.
- Applications, such as the Fires Near Me App
Current Wildfire Mitigation Strategies
- Forest Management. A proactive approach to effectively managing forests, bushes, and watersheds. The county officials and firefighting brigade recognize that dry vegetation commingles with north winds to further the fires’ spread. County employees in the Fire Department and locals are clearing brush, while at the same time, cutting dozer line. By doing so, they help with the removal of flammable plant material, which, in turn, protect homes, lives, forests, and businesses.
- Site-specific built-in protections against human-made and wildfires. On-site fire stations.
- Development regulations. For example, the building-fire codes are enforced to ensure new infrastructure and development in high-risk areas are designed to minimize potential fires and destruction of property, the environment, and life.
Actions to Reduce Risk
Fire experts and locals work in harmony to ensure risk reduction. They utilize a wide range of safety measures, such as the following:
- The development of bushfire survival plans. There is enough evidence from previous natural disasters that a properly designed and implemented survival plan goes a long way in helping people reach informed decisions, especially when threatened by storms, wildfires, and hurricanes.
- Awareness creation and education by community-based organizations, peer groups, and social media and mainstream media outlets.
- Firms have adopted and continue to implement a variety of rules about the whole process of securing and maintaining equipment and facilities that may be involved in the ignition of more fires.
Information Sharing through Social Media
Elected leaders are expected to exercise a great deal of caution when it comes to using their social media accounts during this time. It is highly advisable that, before sharing any information, ensure it is genuine or verifiable. The public depends on us to guide their actions.
As a result, a leader can use his or her Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networking platforms to make posts like this:
- “Burning embers destroy approximately 90 percent of buildings or homes during wildfires. Therefore, all Napa residents who decide to stay are urged to defend their homes by securing the hose, water supply, mops and buckets, water pump, and clear any flammable material around your homes.”
- “Mental health experts have advised on a need for the formation of therapeutic groups to assist with stress management in disaster (SMID).
- What would you, as a family, do when threatened by a bushfire? We would liaise with the emergency officials to help us create an effective bushfire mitigation plan.
- Do you think climate change is to blame for the ongoing wildfires in Napa County and beyond? Yes, because a variety of human activities, including development in forest areas, increase fires’ risk.
Members of the public are encouraged to obtain up-to-date information and address emergencies by calling the CALFIRE line (707) 967-4207.
Lessons and Best Practices
We have learned the following from previous and ongoing fires:
- Disinformation campaign: social media users, including influential people, use their social media platforms to claim that a larger percentage of West coast fires results from willful arson. Elected officials are encouraged to use their influence to inform the public of such statements’ inaccuracy because they undermine our mitigation efforts.
- One of the best practices involves family members getting together and discussing their plan and response to the wildfires. This helps with saving lives, properties, and the environment.