This information is available through the FireSafe Council.
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An evacuation warning is defined as an alert to community members in an area of a potential threat to life and property from an emergency incident. An evacuation warning may be issued when the potential or actual threat to civilian life is more than 2 hours away. When a warning is issued, residents are being warned to prepare to leave their home. The Sheriff’s Office tries to issue the advisory as early as possible based upon the fire's activity so residents will have time to remove their pets, livestock, large boats, RV's and any other personal effects in an orderly, unrushed manner. However, because a wildfire can be unpredictable, the time frame between an advisory and a mandatory evacuation can change quickly. You must be prepared to go at any time.
A mandatory evacuation is declared when a wildfire directly threatens a community and residents are placed in danger. You must leave the area for you and your family's safety. Once you leave, you will not be allowed to return to your property until the mandatory evacuation is lifted.
The principle of evacuation is to move citizens from a place of relative danger to a place of relative safety, via a route that does not pose significant danger. Below is an explanation to common legal concerns during these circumstances.
According to Penal Code Section 409.5 (c), any unauthorized person who willfully and knowingly enters an area closed pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b) and who willfully remains within the area after receiving notice to evacuate or leave shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. This misdemeanor occurs only if a person both enters a closed disaster area knowing it to be closed and subsequently refuses to leave when ordered to do so.
No crime is committed by a person occupying his or her home prior to the closing of the area and subsequently refuses to leave when ordered to do so.
While it is evident that PC 409.5 contains the authority to dissuade persons from entering an area designated as an emergency area, it cannot be used to mandate persons into leaving their residence. The overriding concern of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office is the safety of its citizens in the unincorporated areas.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office may close the area under authority of:
409.5 (a) P.C. "....a menace to the public health or safety is created by a calamity such as a flood, storm, fire, earthquake, explosion, accident or other disaster...."
However, according to 409.5 (d) P.C., "Nothing in this section shall prevent a duly authorized representative of any news service from entering the area closed..."
If access is denied, FCSO has three obligations:
Identification, money, credit cards, checkbooks, insurance records, medications and any other important documents. Personal hygiene items, heavy bedding and clothing to be used as protection. Clothing: Avoid polyesters, rayons, and other flammable material. Cotton is best. Cell phone, portable radio, flashlight; and, if practical, jewelry and other valuables. One gallon or more of drinking water per person per day, food that will not spoil, and a shovel. The most important thing is to get yourself and your family out of danger as quickly as possible.
Don't panic, think before you act, park in an area with the least amount of flammable vegetation. Park on the opposite side of the road from the approaching fire, don't block the road. Avoid sharp switchbacks; they generally indicate a dangerous chimney. Stay in your vehicle with motor running at moderate RPM, air conditioner on, windows closed. Put blankets or heavy clothing against windows especially on the side in which the fired is approaching. Cover yourself with heavy material for protection against heat. Don't leave your vehicle until the fire has passed over.
Go to an area with the least amount of vegetation, such as a stream, Creek, lake or pond, rock Out-Cropping, grazed off areas, logging deck or clear cut area rather than brush. Take advantage of trees, rocks, and low lying areas to shield yourself from the heat. Cover all exposed skin. A shovel held in front of your face may help shield heat. If you have time, try to clear an area around you of grass and flammables. Stay close to the ground while protecting your face, especially your mouth and nose; place a DRY cloth over your mouth and nose to provide some protection to your respiratory system. Fire burns quickly uphill, run laterally or downhill to escape. Run to blackened area; run until completely out of the fire. Once out of the fire, extinguish burning clothing by removing or rolling on the ground.
Remain calm and Wait for instruction from fire or law enforcement officials. Conditions in the assembly area may seem extreme, but will be better than the surrounding areas. Remember to drive safely with the headlights on, watch for fire equipment and other evacuees, expect smokey conditions, which may obscure your vision and breathing. When the fire gets close to the assembly area you will notice increased winds, heavy Smoke and Swirling firebrands. Remain calm, stay in place, talk to and encourage others. Be prepared to put out all spot fires within the assembly area.
Have a minimum of 100' or more clearance around your home, as the law requires. Close all doors and windows (inside and out). Turn off gas or propane, move all flammables away from windows. Leave power to water pump on. Remove flammables from exterior of house. Cover structural openings, windows and vents with plywood. Place a ladder against the roof for quick access. Connect all garden hoses. Wet down roof and exterior of home, if time permits. Leave a note in your home telling where and how you can be located.