Paradise Ridge family shows how to prepare for wildfire evacuations


MAGALIA, Calif. - Magalia homeowners Ray and Jennifer Johnson are the poster family for evacuation preparation.

In fact, when showing how a family should prepare for an evacuation Butte County calls on them for interviews.

The Johnson's are a typical Magalia family. They're married with two children and a dog, having lived in the same house for 20 years.

"It's the trees, it's cool in the summer time,' said Ray Johnson. "We like the snow, we get all of the four seasons."

But the season that concerns Ray and Jennifer Johnson most is the current one, wildfire season.

They were among those told to leave their home during the wildfires that struck the Ridge in 2008.

"It was scary," said Jennifer Johnson of the Lightening-Complex fires. "We were evacuated for that one for three or four days."

Fortunately, when the call came to bug out, they were ready, as they were on the road in less than 10 minutes with all of their important belongings in the trunk of their car.

David Hawks, a Division Chief with CAL FIRE Butte County estimated that only five percent of Ridge residents are prepared as well as the Johnson's.

"Unfortunately people get complacent and think it's not going to happen to them," said Hawks.

Hawks advises that everyone assemble a Go Bag with items such as clothes, water, snacks, medications, toiletries, credit cards and cash, social security cards, the deed on the house, insurance documents and other important materials.

Without fail, fire victims say other than the loss of life, losing photographs is the most painful loss.

"Hopefully you're able to piece your life together and move on," said Hawks. "But you never replace those personal items, those family heirlooms, those personal pictures."

Not surprisingly, the Johnson's have that covered as they have their photo album and other photos on a hard drive.

It's also important to have gasoline in the vehicles, a problem seen on February 7 when approximately 100,000 people evacuated during the Oroville Dam spillway emergency.

"We recommend that people, during the summer months, maintain a half a tank of gas at a minimum," said Hawks.

To learn more on how to prepare for an evacuation you can go to these websites:

Butte County Emergency Mass Notification System

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