Major Lake Tahoe wildfire disaster drill Saturday ‘a big deal’
What: Community Evacuation Drill
When: 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 30
Where: It will affect the upper and lower Fairview, Tyrolian Village/Bitterbrush and Lower Tyrolia area subdivisions, seeking the evacuation of about 1,100 residents. There will be an evacuation center set up at the Diamond Peak lower parking lot, where a free lunch and safety fair will also take place following the drill.
Learn more: www.nltfpd.net
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Lake Tahoe region is perhaps more vulnerable than ever to a catastrophic wildfire, thanks to four straight dry winters and the ongoing Western drought.
With that as a backdrop, hundreds of officials and residents will gather Saturday to make sure Incline Village-Crystal Bay is prepared to save lives — both animal and human — should a disaster occur.
‘… We are very susceptible to emergency incidents,” North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown said Wednesday. “(They) could wreak havoc, and we could be potentially cut off to the outside world … so we want our citizens and visitors who come to Incline Village-Crystal Bay to be prepared.”
NLTFPD, in partnership with several agencies and organizations, is overseeing a mock evacuation that will occur between 7 and 11 a.m. Saturday throughout the lower Fairview, Tyrolian Village/Bitterbrush and Lower Tyrolia subdivisions.
Roughly 1,100 residents in homes there will be asked to evacuate to the lower parking lot of Diamond Peak Ski Resort to a mock emergency center.
After the drill, a Safety Fair will take place until 2:30 p.m., featuring free lunch; information booths and displays; helicopters performing water drops above Diamond Peak; and free animal micro chipping services.
“It will be the biggest Safety Fair that we’ve ever seen in the village,” said Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeff Clark. “We want the community to come up and observe and ask questions and talk to all the responders.
“We are a unique community, with only three ways in and three ways out, so if a major catastrophe happens, we have to be able to work together.”
Here’s a rundown of how the drill will work:
• At 7 a.m., volunteers, agency heads and emergency responders will meet to assess the mock disaster.
• At 7:30 a.m., a robo 911 call will go out to Incline-Crystal Bay residents subscribed to ReadyWashoe.com to notify them of the wildfire.
• At 7:30 a.m., officials will go door to door to the neighborhoods and encourage evacuation.
• Between 7:30 and 11 a.m., volunteers and officials will monitor Ski Way, Country Club Drive and Fairview Boulevard and escort evacuees to the emergency shelter.
• Law/fire enforcement will canvass main intersections in the section of town essentially along Country Club between highways 28 and 431 to direct traffic.
• Also in the morning, various aircraft and helicopters will fly above the community to track the evacuation efforts.
• For the rest of the day, officials and volunteers will be at the Safety Fair to answer questions and oversee various displays and exhibits for the community.
Brown said he’s hoping 500 people — including roughly 245 officials and volunteers working the drill — will participate in the fair.
When disaster strikes, the number of residents needing help far exceeds the personnel who can help and provide adequate water, food, shelter and medical needs, he said.
“Our citizens need to be accountable for themselves; they need to have everything they require and have that ready to be self-sufficient for 72 hours,” Brown said. “… So we want you to get out there and get to know your neighbors, so people can learn more and work together.”
During the drill, officials will track which homes are evacuated, and if contact was made or not with residents.
The data will be used to improve door-to-door efforts and response times, Brown said, so the community is better prepared for a real disaster.
“People need to be responsible for themselves, so we will be prepared to advise them about areas of safety and evacuation (and) areas where they can meet family members,” said Brown, adding that while this drill is about a wildfire, earthquakes, strong atmospheric storms or other disasters could also strike. “We really encourage everyone to have a plan, because it’s not if it will happen — it will happen.”
While emergency personnel will knock on doors and encourage people to evacuate, Brown and Clark were clear that residents may choose to stay in their homes.
“In emergencies, we can’t mandate someone to leave … but we will try and evacuate them to leave the area for their own safety,” Clark said.
Safety is also true for pets. An animal staging area will be set up at the emergency shelter at Diamond Peak, as officials will evacuate homes of pets as part of the drill.
Officials and volunteers with the following agencies and groups will participate: NLTFPD chiefs and firefighter/paramedics; regional fire agencies; WCSO deputies, canine staff and RAVEN helicopter and SWAT team members; volunteers with the Incline Village and North Tahoe (CA) Community Emergency Response Teams; Washoe County Animal Services; Nevada Highway Patrol; Nevada Department of Transportation; U.S. Forest Service; Nevada Division of Forestry; National Guard; Incline Village Community Hospital; and Incline Village General Improvement District; among others.
“This is the first drill of this magnitude … for this community. It’s a big deal,” Clark said. “We really want to assure citizens that we do prepare for catastrophic events and we do train to make a coordinated effort in ensuring the safety of our citizens … We take it seriously, and it’s because we love this community.”