REDCOM - Fire Ready

Josh McFadden

Josh McFadden

Web Exclusives
Wildfire as seen from the REDCOM communication center.

Everything was on fire. Trees. Homes. Cars. Propane tanks were exploding. The people in Sonoma County (California, USA) calling 911 were terrified, horrified, and in mortal fear of losing their lives to the devastating wildfires fueled by dry vegetation and strong erratic winds. Fear and despair were in the voices coming over the line. Where could they go? What could they do? “Help us.” “We’re scared.” Hell was raging here on earth.

Redwood Empire Dispatch Communications Authority (REDCOM) Emergency Dispatchers did all they could to advise their callers, following the lead of Supervisor K.T. McNulty. Callers were told to escape and, if that was not possible, seek places that might protect them from the inferno entrapping their neighborhoods and blocking their escape routes. Was there a swimming pool or pond close? Could they identify an area so scorched there was nothing left to burn?

Emergency Dispatchers Evonne Stevens and Krista Butts had never experienced anything like this, despite a profession in which crisis is the norm on a call-by-call basis. You can listen to them recount their experiences: what they did, how they coped, and why they were more prepared for the 2019 wildfires.