MADERA COUNTY – The Courtney Fire, Junction Fire, and the French Fire serve as critical reminders to everyone to be prepared before disaster strikes.
Sheriff John Anderson reminds all residents to register for MCAlert and to be aware that disaster can strike within seconds. Be it natural or man-made, everyone should always keep a to-do and what-to-take list at hand.
Sheriff Anderson urges the public to familiarize themselves with vital information supplied by Cal Fire that offers a multitude of fire safety tips. Among the immediate concerns, if you have to evacuate, know what to take and accept what you must leave behind. Important information for making your plan can be found at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/
Immediate needs like medications, household pets and supplies, a notebook containing essential information about you, your family, your home, your personal possessions, and important contacts … these are just a sample what you will need to take with you if ever your are forced to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Always keep that notebook in a handy place, so that when you are evacuating your family and pets, you can grab it too.
On the Junction Fire in Oakhurst, for example, the fire spread with such unforgiving speed on Monday afternoon, there was barely any time for some residents to gather what they needed as they escaped.
“There were situations where deputies were running from home to home, grabbing families and their pets, loading them all in their vehicles and getting them out – the fire was moving that fast,” says Anderson.
Just as the fire on Road 425A was exploding into a raging inferno, Sergeants Jim Bernardi and Jacob Tallmon were rescuing residents from their homes.
One homeowner was wheelchair bound. Inside the home, Sgt. Bernardi found an elderly couple and their two dogs, and the fire was racing toward them. They wanted to take the family car, but the fire was already too close. They were going to have to flee in their pickup.
Sgt. Bernardi, who supervisors Madera County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue Unit, said it was truly a race against time. Desperate to save them, he shouted to the woman in the wheelchair, “Hug me, like you love me!” She grabbed him with both arms, so that he could quickly lift her into the truck. With her husband in the driver’s seat, and both dogs in the back, they were ready to drive away when the couple’s car parked nearby suddenly burst into flames.
Miraculously, they made it out. After the evacuations were lifted, Sgt. Bernardi returned to their property to check on them. He was happy to report they are fine, their dogs are fine, and although they lost their car, they did not lose their home.
As the fire raged on, the Sheriff’s Office started issuing alerts to those who lived in the path of the fire. Time was of the essence, and with the afternoon winds fanning the flames, deputies raced to make contact with residents.
“We cannot stress enough,” adds Sheriff Anderson, “how important it is to sign up with the county’s emergency alert system. Neighbors were contacting neighbors upon hearing homes were being evacuated and roads were shutting down. Those who had received alerts were as helpful to those in need as the emergency responders were in making personal house checks.”
It became apparent at the Bass Lake Town Hall meeting on Thursday night, that a number of people still have not signed up, and were not even aware that this service is available. If you know someone who doesn’t use the computer and hasn’t been made aware of MCAlert, please share this info with them. MCAlert is free, and the service could very well save your life.
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office have established emergency alert systems for this very type of situation. But if they can’t reach you, they can’t alert you!
If something of critical importance is happening where you live, the Sheriff’s Office can call you and tell you what you need to know, even if you are out of town. They can contact you by landline or by cell phone. They can text, they can message, and they can also send you emails. How you want to receive alerts and notifications is your choice.
How the system works:
In Madera County, subscribers can either log into MCAlert.org and create a profile themselves; or if they do not have internet service, or cannot access a computer, call the Sheriff’s Office and ask for help.
The Madera County Sheriff’s main number is 559-675-7770. If you do not receive a prompt response, know that staff is assisting others. Simply leave your name and telephone number and someone from their staff will call you back.
You can follow the Sheriff’s latest posts and information on both Facebook facebook.com/MaderaSheriff and Twitter: twitter.com/MaderaSheriff
For Mariposa County residents, Sheriff Doug Binnewies and his staff also have an emergency alert system. To register simply visit their website at www.mariposacounty.org/sheriff and follow the links to register; or text your zip code to 888-777.
You can register several ways:
1. Go to the Sheriff’s website at www.mariposacounty.org/sheriff
2. You can visit www.nixle.com
3. You can pick up a registration form in their office located at 5099 Old Highway North, or any Mariposa County Government Office
4. Register over the phone. You can call the Sheriff’s Office at 209-966-3615 or 1-800-774-8314 and speak with Kristie Mitchell during office hours Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For individuals who created their own account with the prior emergency notification system CodeRED, you will need to register with NIXLE if you wish to continue with your account settings as previously set up with the CodeRED system.
“Please rest assured that we do not share your personal information,” says Sheriff Binnewies. “All information will be used for Law Enforcement public safety emergencies only.”
With all these free services being offered by our local Sheriff’s Offices and Cal Fire, there is no reason for everyone not to be informed and ready to go when danger threatens. And remember to Clear That Defensible Space, for your safety and the safety of our firefighters!