California emergency officials reflect on Camp Fire, one year later

California

SACRAMENTO (KRON) — Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci reflected Friday on the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire.

He says the fire highlighted the importance of situational awareness and staying on top of weather patterns.

“We need to know where they’re at so we can preposition assets or we can pre-evacuate areas,” Ghilarducci said. 

The director says this new sense of awareness helped in pre-evacuations for the recent Kincade Fire, so that firefighters could focus more on the fire as opposed to search and rescues. 

“You don’t want to do a mass evacuation where there’s not a legitimate threat,” he said. “That’s where that good intelligence crosses over in good decision making. That in the past, since we didn’t have that great situational awareness, we weren’t prepositioning resources, it was more reactive, this is a more proactive approach, it’s more lifesaving.”

The chaos of the Camp Fire was made even more complex by utilities.

PG&E has admitted to sparking it while cell service providers had poor connections.

Ghilarducci says the issues with PG&E speak for themselves right now with the company in bankruptcy and under intense government scrutiny.

He says his agency is pushing for stronger equipment from telecommunication providers, especially with utilities intentionally cutting power to limit their chances of starting a fire.

“They need to step up that that is as resilient, public safety grade military grade, building something that’s going to withstand the kind of threats that exist here in California, it’s gotta be much better than what we’ve been seeing,” Ghilarducci said.

KRON4 also asked the director about the state’s interaction with the federal government and if that’s changed at all with the constant back and forth.

He says “there’s politics and operations, a lot of it has been rhetoric, in the space of emergency management they’ve had no problems.”

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