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Firefighters, Law Enforcement and Animal Services Responded to Robbers Fire With Assistance From Small Army of Support Personnel

July 18, 2012

Over the last week, more than 2,000 firefighters from local, state and federal agencies have helped battle the Robbers Fire in rugged terrain about three miles northwest of Foresthill in Placer County.

Robbers Fire Firefighters fighting Fire
Firefighters battle flames during the Robbers Fire.
They have come from as far away as San Diego to the south and Siskiyou County to the north. The incident command team is from CAL FIRE, which also staffs Placer County Fire under a contract with the county.

Working closely with firefighters are law enforcement agencies such as the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol charged with tasks such as controlling traffic, overseeing evacuations and maintaining security in evacuated areas.

Placer County’s Animal Services Division has played a very visible role helping residents get pets and other animals out of fire areas and staffing the animal evacuation center it set up at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn.

Operating largely behind the scenes have been many agencies and county departments that provide support to residents, but often work far from the fire line.

“California can be proud of the system that brings CAL FIRE and many other local and Federal firefighters together and then employs them in a team,” explained county Assistant Director of Emergency Services Rui Cunha. “Communities rarely see the full team, however.”

“Behind the scenes, many employees from Placer County and other agencies have worked hard to support residents around the fire line. For Placer County, as an example, we have asked for help from many county employees not normally involved in emergency response, and they have responded with a dedication and willingness to help that is extraordinary.”

The county Office of Emergency Services activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) soon after the fire broke out at 3:24 p.m. July 11. Many county departments have had representatives at the EOC to help coordinate the county’s efforts.

“Placer County employees, management and rank-and-file alike, stepped up to staff our Emergency Operations Center in Auburn, our public information center in Colfax, our emergency shelter in Foresthill and, utilizing Sheriff’s Department patrols, to protect homes in the fire zone from looting,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery, the supervisor who represents the fire area.

“On my visits to those locations, I see a real commitment to serving our communities now and in the future as needs continue to evolve. While we faced extreme challenges at the Robbers Fire and face new challenges in dealing with the aftermath, I know that Placer County will continue to provide great support and service to those people affected by the fire."

Among the departments at the EOC was Health and Human Services, which provided mental health counseling and other support at the American Red Cross evacuation shelter in Foresthill. Additionally Health and Human Services helped arrange housing for medically fragile residents who had to evacuate their homes.

Health and Human Services also worked with the Placer County Air Pollution Control District on smoke-related health advisories and was present at the Colfax Information Center.

Employees from other departments such as Administrative Services, the Community Development Resource Agency, Agricultural Commissioner’s Office and Probation made themselves available to address needs and support residents affected by this fire.

Another place county employees helped is the Public Information Office call center, which was established to handle inquiries from the media and public. Employee volunteers answered questions on such topics as evacuations, emergency shelters, animal evacuations and smoke-related health issues. The county worked closely with the CAL FIRE call center, the main source of information about the fire.

The county call center was staffed largely by trained volunteers from many departments who comprise the county’s PIO Incident Team. The team joined other agencies in staffing the Foresthill Hill evacuation center and the information center in Colfax.

The Facility Services Department has been active in arranging the use of county facilities and worked with Recology Auburn Placer to make arrangements for helping residents dispose of food that spoiled while they were evacuated from their homes.

Residents will be able to drop off spoiled food at no charge at the Transfer Station on Patton Road in Foresthill from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19. In addition, the Transfer Station will accept spoiled food items from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday at no cost. Residents should contact Recology at (530) 885-3735 if they have questions.

Other county departments already are making plans for work that will be need to be done once the fire is out. Public Works, for instance, is getting ready for repairs to Yankee Jims and Shirt Tail Canyon roads in the fire area.