L.A. County Sheriff's Lieutenant Leo Bauer, left, and Captain Robert Lewis, right, discuss citizen's responsibilities to be prepared and how to respond to Deputies during disasters at a Wildfire Preparedness Town Hall meeting held at Wiley Canyon Elementary School in Newhall on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Christy Smith, first responders hold Wildfire Preparedness Town Hall

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County first responders and emergency preparedness professionals hosted a Wildfire Preparedness Town Hall Saturday.

“This is an opportunity for us to invite our first responder community to be present with the community to give really important reminders about what to do in the event of an emergency, whether that’s wildfire or an earthquake,” said Smith. “We really want to continue to have that focus, just on the awareness, not only to keep our community and residents safe, but to empower our first responders to do their jobs in the times of these emergencies.”

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, left, and Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Captain Robert Lewis listen to questions from the audience during a Wildfire Preparedness Town Hall meeting held at Wiley Canyon Elementary School in Newhall on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

During the 2-hour seminar, held in the multipurpose room of Wiley Canyon Elementary, approximately 50 residents heard from Smith, who sits on the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management in Sacramento, Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Anderson Mackey Jr. and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Lt. Leo Bauer, as well as spokespeople from the California Department of Insurance.

Residents heard information on topics such as brush abatement, evacuations and how to prepare their families to quickly leave their homes in an emergency.

“People think they can protect themselves in the case of fires; we’ve had that so many times where they want to stay back, use their garden hoses, hose down the houses,” said Bauer, in response to a question about the biggest myths emergency personnel wish to dispel about emergencies. “Sometimes, it can work … but when they tap into the fire hydrant system to protect and use that water, it reduces water pressure to that house.”

Attendees get information during a Wildfire Preparedness Town Hall meeting held at Wiley Canyon Elementary School in Newhall on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Bauer also said something they remind residents of is that during an evacuation, when LASD personnel come to the front door of a house, they don’t have time to revisit you in case you decide to delay your departure.

“Once we pass you to go to the next house, next street, next area, you’re behind us,” said Bauer. “If you stay, we don’t have time to come back and save you.” He added that a fire has trapped people, as well as firefighters and law enforcement, and cost them their lives because they did not evacuate when they were told to.

And while LASD officials have the responsibility of educating residents about the critical nature of evacuations, Fire Department officials touched on evacuations, but also the importance of preparing your family.

“Some of the programs we have are the ‘Ready! Set! Go!’ program, that’s the biggest thing,” Mackey said. “Anytime there’s a wildfire approaching and we ask you to evacuate, just evacuate. The best thing for you to do is to leave and leave early.”

Associate Insurance Compliance officer Sally Kim Westlake from the California Department of Insurance speaks about home insurance during disasters during a Wildfire Preparedness Town Hall meeting held at Wiley Canyon Elementary School in Newhall on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The “Ready! Set! Go!” program, which was being emphasized both in speeches and brochures being handed out at the town hall, provides families with critical information on creating defensible space around your home, retrofitting your home with fire-resistant materials and preparing you to safely evacuate well ahead of a wildfire, according to officials.

Kathye Armitage, a resident in attendance whose husband is a fire chief with Los Angeles City Fire, said she believes even her family could be more prepared after she sat through the town hall. The conversation about the importance of insurance at the end of the meeting, calling it information she was prepared to take home and act upon.

“I’d like to think we’re more prepared, but in actuality we really aren’t,” Kathye Armitage said. “So, this was a good reminder for me to put plans in motion.”

For more information about “Ready! Set! Go!” or other earthquake or wildfire preparedness, visit www.fire.lacounty.gov/rsg.

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