Re-examining evacuation routes in some Bay Area communities

The plight of evacuees from the Camp Fire is prompting some residents in some hillside communities to reexamine emergency plans and evacuation routes. The narrow, winding, roads leading to Santa Cruz Mountain communities: Challenge to get up and in, and more of a mental exercise to get out in case of catastrophe.

“If somebody said you have to be out of here in 10 minutes, you have to know what you’re gonna take. You have to have of what the route is you’re gonna take to get out of the area,” said Monte Sereno Mayor Burton Craig.

He says residents constantly juggle variables for natural disasters, such as floods and fires.. For this area, Highways 17 and 9 are the biggest routes and the best bets for getting out safely, despite their propensity to get choked with traffic.

“If you start getting off into short cuts and other things, that may be impacted by fire, falling trees, equipment that’s moving through, etcetera,” said Ross Lee, of the CHP’s San Jose office.

Monte Sereno officials say 1/3 of the city sits in the hills – homes protected by gates and walls, but still vulnerable to fast-moving flames fueled by increasingly severe cycles of drought…

“We can predict fire behavior based on condition such as fuel moisture, the temperature outside, the relative humidity, the wind speed. But we can’t predict when or where a fire’s gonna start,” said Santa Clara County Fire Dept. captain Bill Murphy

That unpredictability can turn deadly if residents, racing to escape flames, don’t follow evacuation orders and try to figure it out on their own on roads barely wide enough for two vehicles. CHP officials say in the event of a natural disaster, they would notify residents in remote areas how to get out and when via text messages and social media updates through their mobile phones. And in event you can’t get a cell signal, they say to stick to heavily traveled areas such as highway 17 or highway 9.

“Immediately in those situations and in those times there would be officers who are going out to the main portions in areas of where these fire are and the roads that are impacted to start turning people around and sending people in the right direction,” said Lee.

A direction designed to save lives, and prevent people from unwittingly being trapped by the disaster they’re trying to escape.