‘We have a role’: Tuolumne County officials want more communities to start preparing for wildfire season

Local News

TUOLUMNE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Year after year, Tuolumne County is no stranger to wildfires.

Tuolumne County was home to the 2013 Rim Fire, which still sits in the top 10 of the largest fires in the state’s history.

“Definitely in the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in wildfire and catastrophic wildfire,” said Tuolumne County Office of Emergency Services Coordinator Dore Bietz.

Bietz said all homeowners and neighborhoods need to be prepared for wildfires.

“Long gone are the times where we’re waiting for everybody else to come save us,” she said. “We have a role, every one of us individually.”

That’s why Bietz is pushing to expand the number of Firewise USA communities in the county. 

“Whether it’s, you know, the Camp Fire, the Butte Fire, Paradise, any of those communities that have been hard hit by wildfires, we’ve been learning from that,” she said.

Firewise USA is a national and international program that provides a framework for neighbors to take action in wildfire prevention and be designated as a Firewise community. 

“Any geographical area that we can get homeowners to come together, build that defensible space and be ‘Firewise,’ be smart and be prepared the better we’re going to be off both in response, as well as recovery, should we be hit by wildfire again,” Bietz explained.

From identifying evacuation routes to preparing to-go bags and phone trees to help the most vulnerable neighbors, Bietz said being “Firewise” is crucial to survival.

“Fire season is no longer a very short timeframe,” she told FOX40. “It is now almost year-round, and so we are having to prepare year-round. We’re having to have these conversations over and over again, year-round, and it’s better to do that so that we can prepare and be resilient from any wildfire.”

Bietz said it’s up to everyone in the community to do their part, including visitors.

“Whenever you go to another county, you have to understand where you’re at. You have to understand that any given time there could be a wildfire,” she said. “So you need to know what that system is. You need to be aware and have that opportunity to help save yourself.” 

There are currently seven nationally-recognized Firewise communities in the county.

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