Fire agencies update community on Hough Complex
Benches at the Taylorsville Grange Hall are filled with concerned community members as Central Coast Interagency Incident Management Team 7 provides an update on the Hough Complex fires, Aug. 21. Photo by Samantha P. Hawthorne
Community members concerned for the safety of their family and homes met with fire containment agencies Aug. 21 to discuss the threat of the Hough Complex of fires.
After only 36 hours of arriving on location, Central Coast Interagency Incident Management Team 7 conducted the public meeting. Information was provided on fire containment status, weather conditions, fire behavior, and suppression efforts.
Lining the walls of the Taylorsville Grange Hall to answer community questions were Plumas County District 2 Supervisor Kevin Goss, congressmen Doug LaMalfa’s field representative Timothy Holabird, Plumas County office of Emergency Services Director Jerry Sipe and representatives from Forest Service, Cal Fire, and Greenville Fire Department.
Upon introducing himself, Incident Commander Mark Nunez said, “Our team is known for being very aggressive. Our motto is to try and catch the fire as small and as quick as we can, while keeping safety as our number one priority.”
He explained the teams’ seven management objectives, with particular focus of the towns’ livelihood — the timber industry. “We are aware that the timber industry is a large part of this economy. That is important to us.”
He said that second to providing firefighter and public safety, their objective is to “provide and coordinate protection of structures, timber lands, and infrastructure on public and private lands within the complex.” The team has worked alongside people within the local timber industry to identify errors and create the most accurate maps as possible.
During their first two days of arriving on location the team established an incident command post at the Taylorsville Elementary School, and gathered all the necessary fire details in order to provide the most timely and accurate information to the public as possible. This includes updates on fire activity and effects on air quality.
Nunez said the key to their operations is collaboration with local communities, and neighboring and cooperating agencies. Although Forest Service has passed on management of the fire to Team 7, they remain an integral part of operations.
Plumas National Forest Supervisor Earl Ford said, “We had people from our forest that were on this fire from its inception. Those people did an outstanding job at responding and we have had outstanding response from local community. Local Forest Service officials are updated daily by the incident management team. “This is a team effort.”
The sixth management objective is to “minimize disruption to the local economy.” He said when evacuations are necessary they will only be issued for as long as needed, and will be lifted as soon as is safe.
Team 7 liaison Jeff Jones added, “If you are at home and at any time are uncomfortable, leave.” He said there is no need to wait for an evacuation order.
In response to a community members question on how residents will be notified in case of evacuation Sipe said there will be a reverse 911 call set up and search and rescue will be deployed to notify people door to door.
Although resources are limited due to heavy fire activity throughout the county, there has been no shortage for the Hough Complex. Resources have come from San Diego County, Cal Fire, the Bay Area, Tahoe and even the state of Iowa. There are also resources being used strictly to protect private property. Nunez said many of the resources used are and will be from the military.
Updated information and maps will be posted on bulletin boards throughout town and at http://inciweb.org/incident/3670/.
Questions can be directed to the incident management team by visiting the ICP in Taylorsville or by calling 284-7120 or 284-1815. Information is also on their Twitter feed at Central Coast IMT7.
Residents are asked to call 911 if they notice any new fires.
According to incident fire behavior analyst Stewart Turner, approximately 100 lightning strikes hit the ground during the Aug. 18 storm, which ignited the initial series of fires. He expects last nights storm will spark another 10-15 fires.
He said despite recent rainfalls the forest is still “pretty dry,” and only has four percent moisture content. He estimated only 1/10th of an inch of rain fell during the most recent storm, “which would not even wet a pile of pine needles.”
Outflow winds have also been a contributing factor to fire growth, and have caused fires to be pushed around. Short-range spotting and rollout fires have also been a problem. “Our primary objective is to try and keep the fires small,” said Turner.
He said the red flag warning currently in place would continue until this evening. According to the National Weather Service, a red flag warning means, “critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly.”