Resident group volunteers time to assist North Tahoe fire district during emergencies | SierraSun.com

Resident group volunteers time to assist North Tahoe fire district during emergencies

Matthew Renda
Sierra Sun
Matthew Renda/Sierra SunFrom left, Steve Phillips, Jerry Wotel, Fran Robinson, Renz Robinson and Ray Greva and#8212; all members of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District and#8212; assemble in front of the public information trailer provided by a FEMA grant earlier this year.
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TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; Lake Tahoe Basin firefighters know the question relating to the next wildland fire is less a matter of if and#8212; but when. Thus, fire districts are doing everything they can within a restrictive budgetary climate to be prepared for the eventuality.

One preparatory initiative the North Tahoe Fire Protection District has enacted is a Citizenand#8217;s Emergency Info Team, formed to allow trained volunteer residents to answer phones and provide public information during a catastrophe so districts can deploy all firefighters to meet the emergency.

and#8220;The group was formed in response to situation that occurred at the Angora fire when all firefighters left to go out to the fire, leaving no one behind to answer the phones and information lines causing callers to become frantic,and#8221; said Dave Zaski, NTFPD spokesman.

Jerry Wotel, a volunteer member of CEIT, said approximately 30 people have signed up in Kings Beach and about 10-12 individuals from Tahoe City have joined.

and#8220;We receive training about once a month, so itand#8217;s not a huge time commitment,and#8221; said Wotel, who said he has been utilized by NTFPD in six instances when minor emergencies such as gas line ruptures have cropped up. and#8220;Weand#8217;ll be ready to do our part so firefighters can go do their job.and#8221;

Duane Whitelaw, NTFPD chief, said he was impressed by the amount of volunteers willing to donate their time to the fire districtand#8217;s cause.

and#8220;Itand#8217;s been incredible to see this many people willing to help the community,and#8221; he said. and#8220;When the next emergency occurs and#8212; and it will and#8212; weand#8217;ll have people in place who can get the word out to the public, tell them whether they should evacuate, where to go and other vital information. This really is an important part of our operation.and#8221;

Along with the volunteers, NTFPD recently used a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to purchase two radio transmitters, which will allow volunteers to broadcast pertinent information and breaking news in an emergency situation. The district will use AM station 1630, which has been licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.

and#8220;In the case of a full power outage, people can still use AM radio in their cars,and#8221; Whitelaw said.

Additionally, the grant paid for two trailers replete with chairs and tables so volunteers can establish roving communication centers in an emergency situation.

and#8220;We learned from the Angora and Washoe fires that we need individuals capable of providing instant turnaround of information,and#8221; Whitelaw said. and#8220;We want to thank the volunteers for getting involved.and#8221;

Steve Phillips, another CEIT volunteer, said he is happy to contribute.

and#8220;I just wanted to help out the community,and#8221; he said. and#8220;Also, I wanted to help out the men and women who put their lives on the line every day.and#8221;