BOULDER CREEK, Calif. (KRON) — First responders are urging San Mateo County and Santa Cruz County residents to “Know Your Zone” to be prepared for future wildfire evacuations.
With hard lessons learned from last summer’s devastating CZU Lightning Complex fire, the counties improved a mapping tool called ZoneHaven. The map carves out hundreds of zones to streamline the evacuation process.
“When it comes to emergency response, every minute counts,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley.
Each zone has a code that residents can look up here using their home address.
When the next big blaze ignites, emergency agencies will use the codes to send alerts for evacuation warnings, mandatory evacuations, escape routes, and shelters for victims.
Cal Fire division chief Jonathan Cox said, “This online platform is a technological leap forward that allows us to instantaneously and directly communicate real-time evacuation information to the public.”
Wildfires in California are getting bigger and faster.
“Fires that move incredibly fast, that actually force people to run from their homes, have become the new normal in California,” Cox said.
When the CZU Fire exploded in size within hours of a lightning strike, deputies were not able to get to every neighborhood. Law enforcement agencies and firefighters had the huge task of evacuating 77,000 residents.
Boulder Creek resident SLV Steve said, “Traffic was backed up on every road for miles.”
One victim died after he was surrounded by flames with no escape routes in the Last Chance neighborhood.
Residents living in the Pine Crest neighborhood were saved by a CHP helicopter that used a megaphone to relay the message: Get out now.
“Law enforcement agencies did an amazing amount of work in the short period of time,” Steve said.