Q&A: Redding Fire Marshal Shares How To Prepare For Upcoming Fire Season

May 20, 2020

Fire season is coming up quick in the North State. 

NSPR’s Matt Fidler spoke with Redding Fire Department's Fire Marshal, Craig Wittner, about what’s expected for the season and how residents can prepare.

Here are highlights from their conversation, as well as the four websites Wittner referred to as places to find information about preparing for wildfire: readyforwildfire.orgready.govfema.gov and nfpa.org

Links to sign up for emergency alerts in your area can be found at the bottom of the page. 

Interview Highlights

On whether recent rains bode well for the fire season

I like to think it's a little bit of wishful thinking. Rain is always nice and it delays the inevitable a little bit. But more rain also means more vegetation growth. I like to say it's six of one, half dozen of the other. We either have a dry winter and a dry season, and maybe fire season will be here a little sooner. Or we have plenty of wet weather, which is plenty of water for the vegetation to grow. Either way, summer is going to be here and we're going to have plenty of vegetation available to burn. So even with wet weather, all it takes is a few warm days with a little bit of wind and that precipitation evaporates fairly rapidly.

On what kind of fire season we’re expecting

We plan for an aggressive fire season. We got lucky after the terrible year of 2018. We had somewhat of a reprieve in that 2019 was not as severe or as aggressive. But that could change. We all pray for a moderate fire season and easy weather. But we plan for the worst. So we plan for a busy fire season. If we get something other, then I would call us lucky.

On what people who live in fire-prone areas should be doing now to prepare for fire season

People need to be taking the time now and working on their defensible space, working on preparing for upcoming fire season. And they can do that by absorbing the litany of literature that's online. Any fire agency has information available. People need to take advantage of the information that's out there to reduce their risk. 

There's four websites that are somewhat my favorites. They are very complete with information. The first and foremost is readyforwildfire.org. That's put on by our state fire agency, Cal Fire. It's very well put together and very inclusive of pertinent information. The other three are ready.gov, fema.gov and nfpa.org. All four of those websites have all the pertinent information people need to be aware of, to plan for, be prepared, both before fire season and during fire season, including what to do if fire is approaching, staying prepared, planning to evacuate, when to go, where to go, what to do — all that information is included on those websites. 

On signing up for Code Red emergency alerts in Redding

I went through the process this morning just to refamiliarize myself with it, and it took about three minutes to sign myself up, including my home phone number and my cell phone number. And by doing so, people will then be alerted via voice recording, text, of an emergency or some type of event in the area that they've registered their phones. So when I registered my home, I'll get alerts of anything that's going along in my particular area, including amber alerts, missing children, weather, warnings, fires, evacuation notices, etc. 

But people have to remember that, although that is an excellent way to stay informed and staying informed is part of being prepared both before and during an event, that's just one method. I'm kind of old school and I like to have a battery operated AM/FM radio. During Carr Fire, those people that had been registered with Code Red did indeed get appropriate alerts and stay informed, but there were also instances where those cell phone towers had been impacted by fire. So in that case, that cell phone tower is no longer available to send those Code Red alerts. I happen to stay informed by listening to AM/FM radio on our local radio stations. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.

In the event of an emergency, quick and accurate information is key. Are you signed up to receive emergency alerts in your county? 

Other tips:

  • Follow your local public safety agencies on social media. Many entities use Facebook and Twitter to share important, up-to-date information with the public.
  • Follow along with your preferred local media source — whether it's the radio, newspaper, television, or online. Most news agencies also post daily updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Have an emergency preparedness kit ready to go in the event you have to evacuate.
  • Try to keep three-quarters of a tank of gas in your car at all times.
  • Be aware of road closures that may affect your travel. Have physical maps on hand.