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With resources stretched, your emergency plan may be what saves you in the next big one

Firefighter August 2020
John Palminteri
Firefighters say they will save lives and property with all the resources they have in a disaster, but they need the public to help by being prepared and to cooperate. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Emergency plans
John Palminteri
Firefighters say they will save lives and property with all the resources they have in a disaster, but they need the public to help by being prepared and to cooperate.
Emergency plan
CAL OES
Firefighters say they will save lives and property with all the resources they have in a disaster, but they need the public to help by being prepared and to cooperate. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Emergency plan
John Palminteri
Firefighters say they will save lives and property with all the resources they have in a disaster, but they need the public to help by being prepared and to cooperate.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - California emergency responders have been stretched out to a level that should alert residents in vulnerable areas if we have another big incident.

That's why officials urge the public to double check their personal plan.

The response they expect may not be the response they will get.

Local fire and police services are fully staffed, but the speed of mutual aid staffing could be compromised with thousands of firefighters and other emergency responders dispatched out of the area.

A solid base to start preparing is with the heavily taught "Ready, Set, Go" plan. It is available on line in English and Spanish.

The vital information on what you should have ready, and how you should protect your property in advance is included.

Emergency officials say they need the public's help to have a plan, practice it and be cooperative in a crisis.

An outspoken resident Franz Lanting  spoke out at a community rally when the CZU August lighting complex fires  were taking out homes in the Santa Cruz hills. "There are individual property  owners who are fighting fires with no support.  We've only seen the Sheriff show up at our door step saying you have to get out."

They saw, first hand,  what it was like to have firefighting resources stretched to the max.

"Either the professionals take charge or the residents should be allowed to defend their own property," said Lanting.

Residents who gathered at a road block were chanting, "Help save Bonny Doon!" to get help to their community.

At the time Cal Fire officials said resources were ordered and arriving, but it was not clear to the residents what was coming or when.

"We don't have any help so neighbors are helping neighbors," said Dave Spencer. 


This was an insight to what property owners elsewhere could be facing, and since then,  some have.


Now, with over three million acres burning in California,  Central Coast residents may not see mutual aid fire crews as fast as they expect in an emergency.

Captain Daniel Bertucceli with Santa Barbara County Fire said, "I would not anticipate getting the massive amount of resources that we have been so accustomed to getting in the past."


In the December 2017 Thomas fire, an army of fire fighters arrived because it was the only fire burning in the state.

 Air support is also a shared resource.

"The airplane that you see making a drop in Santa Barbara County can go refuel and if it is not needed  back on a fire in Santa Barbara County, that same aircraft can be   making a drop on a fire in Monterey county within 45 minutes," said Bertucelli.

The priorities are always  lives and property.

Property owners and those living in fire zones are urged to have a grass clearing program to be part of their "Ready, Set, Go " plan.

Bertucelli said, "if you do have that defensible space, you are giving your structure, your home, a fighting chance to stand on its own." He called the process, home hardening. It included adding the right materials in construction or repair to repel fire, making sure cracks are sealed to keep embers out, and vents are not open.

Spencer recalls the August fire departure from his neighborhood.  "I drove out through  flames," he said.  His home survived but others nearby were lost.

 For those trying to stop a fire on their own, Spencer said, he warned his neighbors. " I tried to advise them that they should leave because this fire front is extreme an no one should try to stay and defend their property in my opinion."

Compared to the past, Bertucelli said, "If you experienced a fire 20-25 years ago and you  still have that in the back of your head as to what you are going to experience now,  I'd like to say that is  not going to be the same situation."


In a wind driven fire, he said, a garden hose will be useless.

Central Coast fire crews have been through catastrophic events in recent years, and are battle tested,  but this year is proving to be one of the biggest challenges.

Bertucelli says, it is not a battle they will back down from.   "We are going to stay in this fight all the way through and we're not going to stop until everything's done."

Watch tonight on KEYT NewsChannel 3, KCOY News Channel 12, and KKFX Fox 11.

(More details, video and pictures will be added here later today)

Fire / Safety / Santa Barbara- S County / Santa Maria - North County / Weather News

John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.

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