We must prepare for fire in Nevada County

With fire, it’s always a matter of when, not if.

The “when” came early Monday in the form of the Jones Fire — a blaze caused by a lightning strike that spurred the evacuation of 4,000 people and, as of Friday morning, had burned 705 acres.

Nevada County residents are glued to their radios and mobile devices. They make the rounds of the pertinent websites, gathering the necessary information, considering their next move.

Our community talks about preparedness. We clear our defensible space, and join Firewise communities. But it’s times like these, when fire is no longer a theoretical, that we learn what our preparation has accomplished.

And, yes, there are always hiccups, regardless of whether it’s getting information to people or getting people evacuated. What’s important is that, so far, only buildings have been damaged, not people. Officials will work on improving their information delivery devices once we’re past the Jones Fire.

And, hopefully, there will be even fewer people affected by fire the next time this happens.

County officials have pushed residents to the Ready Nevada County dashboard — an online tool that shows the fire, areas with mandatory evacuation areas as well as spots with advisory evacuation areas. Viewers can see tweets from the county’s Office of Emergency Services, along with other agencies like the National Weather Service and Caltrans.

Imagine if our community had a tool like this during the 49er fire. Imagine if we’d had it just a few short years ago during the Lobo and McCourtney fires. This dashboard, which can viewed on a phone, can be a game changer.

The dashboard is still wonky. Earlier this week some information didn’t appear properly on it. The always updating feed of tweets can be confusing, as various agencies at times reported the fire’s size and containment at different levels.

These are kinks to be worked out, and they will be.

For now, let’s focus on the good.

Plenty of people took the warning, or advisory, evacuations to heart and got out of Dodge. Many of them no doubt had their go bags ready, along with their pets and supplies they needed.

Evacuating during an advisory helps ease the traffic burden, if that advisory later becomes mandatory. It’s also just a smart move. We all should have a plan to evacuate — a place to go and the items we need prepped to come with us. It’s up to each of us to determine when we should leave during an advisory evacuation, but as the saying goes: better safe than sorry.

Mother Nature will always have the upper hand. There’s only so much defensible space we can clear, and the area of the Jones Fire — with its steep canyons and hard to access spots — isn’t the best candidate. We can work to protect our own property, but so much of this county remains wild and untamed. It’s one of the reasons we live here. It also makes it tough when the fires do come.

And a lightning strike isn’t something you can exactly plan for.

The Jones Fire has reinforced a lesson we all need: prepare for the worst, stay informed, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

It’s up to each of us to take responsibility for ourselves and our property.

Because it’s not a matter of if another fire will happen, it’s when.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at [email protected]

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