The Cambrian

How long would it take to evacuate Cambria in wildfire? That and other topics to be discussed

SLO County is bracing for wildfire — and workers are clearing an evacuation path

Workers remove vegetation along the side of Cambria Pines Road in Cambria as part of a Cal Fire's wildfire management program. The program in SLO County is paid for through funds from PG&E
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Workers remove vegetation along the side of Cambria Pines Road in Cambria as part of a Cal Fire's wildfire management program. The program in SLO County is paid for through funds from PG&E

It would take more than four hours under ideal conditions to evacuate residents of Cambria’s Lodge Hill areas west of Highway 1, according to preliminary statistics from a Cal Poly study.

However, the study’s estimate doesn’t address how long it would take all those vehicles to get out of the Cambria area after they all hit Highway 1 at about the same time. More details on the Lodge Hill evacuation study and subsequent ones for some other areas of town (including Liemert, Happy Hill, Pine Knolls and the three school-campus areas) will be released during a Cambria Wildfire Preparedness meeting from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 29, in the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

Studying the Park Hill area would require an additional grant from the county Fire Safe Council or other source.

PG&E’s power shutoff, other topics

Evacuation is just one of many topics to be covered in relatively short segments during the meeting sponsored by the Cambria Fire Safe Focus Group, a subset of the council.

For instance, attendees will hear directly from PG&E’s Steven Crawford about how the utility is preparing for wildfire, including possible shutoff of electrical power to Cambria and other communities when wildfire danger and temperatures are high, humidity and vegetation-moisture levels low and winds stiff. It’s PG&E’s recently implemented “Public Safety Power Shutoff,” part of its Community Wildfire Safety Program.

Other discussions in the meeting will include handy hints on how to “harden” your home against possible wildfire, fire-season landscaping, how to use the new North Coast Emergency Preparedness website, how to sign up for Reverse 911 and Smart 911 to get notifications about emergencies. Representatives will be there from the county Sheriff’s office, Cambria’s Community Emergency Response Team, Cal Fire, Cambria Fire Department and other representatives and vendors.

While some information being shared will be Cambria-centric, lots of other details are not, so people from any area are welcome to attend and learn.

Evacuating Cambria

Many North Coast residents have only one route in or out from their neighborhoods, and one way out of the area (Highway 1).

Officials say that planning ahead for evacuations, implementing those plans and having residents know what they must do and when could be crucial to saving lives. Cal Poly’s evacuation studies for Cambria led by Cornelius Nuworsoo, professor and transportation engineer, identify various scenarios related to possible, real-life situations, including some choke points that would need traffic control.

The studies also balance evacuation vs. shelter-in-place options plus the possibility of establishing additional exit routes. The studies considered such factors as population, land use, number of buildings and vehicles and what could happen when firefighters and other first responders are trying to get into an area while residents are trying to get out.

Cal Fire Deputy Chief Eric Cleveland of San Luis Obispo offers a few tips for ranch fire preparedness and talks about a mapping effort on Santa Margarita Ranch.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

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