Sebastopol Fire Department keeps city and community safe through mutual aid and preparedness
During the most recent wildfires in Sonoma County community, members asked about how our small fire department was able to keep Sebastopol safe while also lending a hand to other cities. One way is through a Mutual Aid Agreement. Sebastopol Fire Chief Bill Braga explains how that works and shares some of the other ways that our city prepares for and works to prevent wildfires.
Sebastopol has a Mutual Aid Agreement with every fire department in Sonoma County, as well as an assistance agreement with the County of Sonoma Department of Emergency Management. Under the Mutual Aid Agreement, every local fire department sends “all available” resources and equipment to battle fires in our region. This is accomplished by our 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch Center in Sonoma County. REDCOM, our County’s Dispatch Center, initiates an “ALL CALL” Immediate Need 9-1-1 Dispatch that activates every fire pager in Sonoma County. In the case of the Glass Fire, dozens of fire engines and hundreds of firefighters responded to Santa Rosa on Saturday night. In that fire we also received firefighting resources from Cal Fire and Cal OES. Fixed wing aircraft with fire retardant and helicopters equipped with water buckets were also dispatched for daytime deployments.
Our department often renders aid outside of Sonoma County. At the time of the Glass Fire, hundreds of fires were burning in California, straining the state’s ability to render aid to all regions. One Sebastopol fire engine and four firefighters had just returned from a Federal Fire in the Klamath National Park near the California/Oregon Border. They were there for 14 days, after spending 21 days with another one of our fire engines and four firefighters at our local Walbridge Fire in Guerneville and the Lake Sonoma area. Yet, even in these extreme circumstances, we are able to continue to provide the resources that Sebastopol needs.
Our line of defense and firefighting strategy with these large wildland fires is to keep our Mutual Aid Agreement intact with our local fire departments, as well as a signed agreement with Cal Fire and Cal OES for assistance. We have 24 active volunteers who are highly trained and motivated to take care of our own city and as well as others that are in need of help. Specialized Training and Equipment complements those dedicated members of our fire department. Each volunteer spends hundreds of hours on training every year.
Within the City of Sebastopol, we also have a Weed Abatement Ordinance that the Fire Department manages throughout the summer months. All properties that are listed are contacted two to three times per year to remove high grass, weeds and vegetation. This program has been very successful over the years, especially when we saw an increase in wildland fires.
Additionally, our Map Your Neighborhood Program is very successful in teaching our residents how to take care of themselves, their neighbors and their families. We encourage everyone to have a plan, a Go-Bag with critical supplies, food, water and an evacuation plan and escape routes to follow if evacuated any time during the day or night, as we did on an early Sunday morning during the Kincade Fire.
Chief Bill Braga, a Sebastopol native, has been with the Sebastopol Fire Department for 36 years and has led the department as its chief for 10 years.