BUTTE COUNTY — The Camp Fire all but destroyed the town of Paradise, and many people never even got the warnings to evacuate as this fire raged toward their community.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office is working to change that.
The morning of November 8, flames barreling toward Brittany Sharp’s home were her only warning to evacuate.
“We just saw from the ridge just an enormous amount of smoke,” Sharp said.
She’s one of many neighbors who never got an emergency alert to her cell phone letting her know the Camp Fire was coming.
She left, but many didn’t.
“It was hectic,” she told FOX40. “You can’t prepare for something like that.”
Eighty-five people died in the Camp Fire. It’s the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea wants to make sure this never happens again.
“Cellular telephone networks can become clogged,” Honea said. “Your cellular network can become damaged and go down.”
It’s why his department is trying out a new way to warn neighbors to get out, programming a special siren into every marked deputy vehicle.
“It’ll allow our deputies to go through neighborhoods, sounding this very distinctive siren. That would alert people to a problem,” Honea told FOX40.
The siren is meant to tell people to evacuate the area.
“I want to be very clear, this does not replace the other mechanisms of notifying people,” Honea said. “We still need people to sign up for code reds so they can get the emergency mass notification. We still need them to pay attention to those social media pages. We still need them to pay attention to the traditional media.”
But the siren is not foolproof. There’s no way to guarantee everyone will hear it and if a road isn’t passable, deputies won’t be able to get into the neighborhoods to sound it.
Still, Honea says it’s worth a shot.
“We need to make an effort to message across multiple platforms because no single platform is going to do the trick,” he said.
Neighbors like Sharp are all for any plan to get the word out faster.
“I think we should try everything that we can think of,” she told FOX40.
Honea says it cost his department roughly $3,000 to program the new siren into all of their vehicles.
The sirens are fully functional now.