AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Friday Briefing: Sierra Nevada Town Consumed by the Dixie Fire

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 6, 2021: The River Fire destroyed at least 76 structures and prompted evacuations in two counties; the CPSC has recalled two million dehumidifiers for an overheating and fire risk; there are few viable alternative routes for through traffic as I-70 remains closed through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado; the governor of Hawaii signed an emergency declaration for the Waimea brushfire burning in South Kona; low water levels in Lake Oroville prompted the shutdown of the dam’s hydroelectric plant; residents of Greenville, California, were ordered to evacuate as the Dixie Fire exploded and then destroyed their town; the NHC is monitoring tropical activity off the coast of Africa for development; and the AVO issued Aviation Code: Orange and Alert Level: Watch for the Pavlof Volcano for ongoing low-level ash eruptions.

1. The River Fire has now scorched over 2,600 acres, and evacuation orders remain in effect for Placer and Nevada counties in California and Nevada. A total of three people were injured, including one firefighter. At least 76 structures have been destroyed, 20 were damaged and at least another 3,400 remain threatened. CalFire noted that while they gained some containment Thursday, weather forecasts for Friday include gusty winds and higher temperatures, which may increase fire behavior.

2. Dehumidifiers made in Taiwan are being recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There were at least two million units sold in the United States under at least 20 different brand names, including Amana, Danby and Whirlpool, that were made by a company called New Widetech. The units allegedly overheat and catch fire, and a total of 107 incidents have been reported to the CPSC.

3. Interstate 70 in Colorado remains closed through Glenwood Canyon between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs, with few alternates available for through traffic. The road has been closed indefinitely due to mudslides as a result of burn scars from last season’s Grizzly Creek wildfire. One alternate route, Independence Pass, is a winding and narrow alternate that is showing closed on maps in most major phone apps. However, it is open to local traffic. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) noted that the pass is too narrow for heavy traffic, and alternate routes need to be used.

4. An emergency declaration was signed on Wednesday for the County of Hawaii by the state’s governor, due to the wildfire that continues to burn in South Kona. The historic Parker Ranch suffered the brunt of the wildfire, with at least 38,000 acres destroyed. The wildfire has currently consumed a total of about 47,000 acres. Parker Ranch has now committed to native reforesting of at least 3,300 acres of their land on Mauna Kea’s slopes to help mitigate drought and other destructive influences.

5. Water levels have dipped so low in Lake Oroville due to the ongoing severe drought that the Edward Hyatt Power Plant had to be taken offline for the first time in history. When operational, the plant produces enough energy to power at least 80,000 homes and businesses. Located on the nation’s tallest dam, it is one of California’s largest hydroelectric plants. However, officials indicated that the shutdown was anticipated, and they were prepared for the loss of electrical production from the plant.

6. The Dixie Fire ravaged a small, historic town dating back to California’s Gold Rush era. The wind-whipped fire consumed the majority of structures, including schools, homes, and businesses, in the town of Greenville, a northern Sierra Nevada community. Evacuation orders were issued for the town’s 800 residents on Wednesday after the fire exploded to the north and east side and winds topped 40 mph. The wildfire has now consumed more than 432,800 acres and is only 35% contained.

7. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is monitoring tropical activity off the coast of Africa. One tropical wave is producing disorganized thunderstorms several hundred miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands. The system reportedly has about a 60% chance of development over the next five days, as environmental conditions remain somewhat conducive to tropical formations.

8. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) changed the Aviation Code to Orange and the Alert Level to Watch for the Pavlof Volcano due to ongoing ash emissions. Situated on the southwestern end of the Alaskan Peninsula, Pavlof is a stratovolcano and one of the most active volcanoes in Alaska. Intermittent bursts of low-level ash emissions are occurring, and drifting about six miles southeast before dissipating, all of which are likely to be problematic for trans-Pacific jet travel.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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