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$225,000 Grant Earmarked For Evacuation Plan Strategies

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Sonora, CA – A Tuolumne County joint-powers-authority is sharing news of a state grant that will help plan community disaster evacuation routes and emergency communications.

Tuolumne County Transportation Council (TCTC) officials say they were recently notified of the $225,000 award, which the council applied for in partnership with the City of Sonora and county officials.

All shared concerns about mega-fires, a critical five-year drought, and ensuing mass pine die-offs within the past ten years as Forest Service and CalFire budgets dedicated to fire suppression have been compromised.

The Camp Fire in particular, which resulted in the near wipe-out of Paradise, showed how a huge wildfire can impact evacuation routes, leading TCTC members two years ago to recognize an opportunity for generating a proactive plan that could be enacted in the event of a natural disaster generated emergency.

Along with evacuation routes, quick and effective communications would be integral to a coordinated response to avoid possible loss of life or further tragedy due to confusion, gridlock, or the inability to adequately message. TCTC, City of Sonora and Tuolumne County extended a grant request to plan for such emergencies. It was reinforced by letters of support from the Forest Supervisor’s office and communities such as Pine Mountain Lake.

The resulting award includes Caltrans as an integral partner and The County Office of Emergency Services will serve as the cornerstone for planning and key coordination. Officials say once the project receives the necessary state approvals, the next steps will include identifying a consultant with expertise in both natural disasters and evacuation planning, along with identifying area stakeholders, such as CHP, Tribal Councils, schools and others. A series of community meetings are also in the works.

Among key areas of focus are to identify high-risk housing communities and local roadways likely to be overwhelmed; creating evacuation/sheltering in place locations such as schools or ballfields as well as strategies to manage congestion and evacuation. Plans include creating an operations manual for use by Incident response teams and supporting a county-wide tabletop or demonstration project.

TCTC Executive Director Darin Grossi comments, “The community will benefit from this planning project. We are pleased to have an opportunity to support the City, County, and State in their efforts to safely evacuate our citizens should the need arise.”