Angwin Fire Safe Council Meeting

Napa County Leaders Share “Lessons Learned from the October Fires and HOW TO PREPARE”

The Angwin Fire Safe Council hosted a meeting for residents with a line-up of presenters that had recent experience to share.  Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann, Napa County Sheriff John Robertson, Napa County Office of Emergency Services Coordinator Kevin Twohey, and Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon each spoke briefly about their experience during the Atlas Fire. This was followed by a presentation by Angwin Volunteer Fire Chief JR Rogers, discussing the “Ready? Set? Go!” wildfire preparedness principals, as they relate to the residents of the Angwin and Deer Park neighborhoods.

Angwin Fire Chief Rogers made it clear that creating defensible space and hardening your home with fire resistant building material are two steps that are must do’s for all Napa County residents that live in the forest. This especially is needed in the Angwin area, which hasn’t had a fire since the 1940’s.

Napa County Fire Chief Biermann advised residents that “I would do whatever I can do to make my home a stand-alone-property”, meaning one that has so much defensible space, and is properly hardened, so a fire would move past the home without any fire personnel on scene.  CAL Fire successfully accomplishes their mission of containing 90% of fires at 10 acres or less, cases in which firefighters and fire engines are able to get to the scene to help, but the Atlas Fire was “so far out of the box…with winds in excess of 70 MPH, that the “priority was to save lives”.

Chief Biermann also noted that he “truly believes the Fire Safe Council work saved lives”. By clearing brush from along Atlas Peak Road it made it safer to access in and out. As the chief drove up Atlas Peak Road into the fire, he felt it was a “really reassuring thing…I knew I could get out.”

Sheriff  Robertson said his take-away after the wildfire was that “We do very well in a disaster. When I say we, I mean you all.” While phone service was down and things happened very fast in the first hours of the disaster, he noted that neighbors helping neighbors clearly saved lives. “First responders are not always going to be able to get to you. It’s time to get to know each other”.

Napa County OES Coordinator Twohey added that his office has been “very busy with four disasters in 40 months, and they have learned from each one”. During Lake County’s Valley Fire, Napa County opened a shelter for evacuees at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, which took in 1,000 people and their small pets.  When the October fires started, they were immediately able to set up the same shelter and offer a place for evacuees and their pets. Additionally, they had plans in place to evacuate large animals, which helped them to “successfully rescue and evacuate over 700 horses.” 


Twohey reiterated “Everybody should be prepared to be on their own for 72 hours.  Have a disaster kit ready.  The government can’t always be there, residents have to be self-sufficient, help your neighbors, know your evacuation routes, and have a contact person and place if you get separated from your family”. 

**********                       © Peter Kilkus 2018