Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor - week of July 9

Efficient evacuation

Dear Editor,

I was a volunteer working at Calvin Crest during the June 18 Sky Fire evacuation.

The process was extremely interesting to me because, prior to retiring, I managed evacuation drills, “Man Down” and drill events, and hazmat drills with Hilmar Cheese Company in Hilmar. I believe that I’m in a fairly good position to evaluate the Calvin Crest training for, and the execution of the evacuation.

The evacuation training was conducted the morning of the fire. The details of the evacuation plan are simple, which is important to enable people to remember those details.

The plan was discussed along with sighting other possible scenarios and Cal Fire’s possible response to those unlikely scenarios. I believe that this training and background information led to the orderly, efficient, and in many ways, relaxed evacuation from the property.

During the evacuation, a national forest employee directed some of the evacuation caravan on an alternate road, effectively splitting up the caravan of departing cars. I saw Calvin Crest staff respectfully follow those directions, and quickly respond by leading multiple caravans.

As we descended, I saw Calvin Crest staff coolly dealing with smoking brakes, cars nearly running out of gas, and a flat tire. I saw every effort to keep the group together.

Once we arrived at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, the evacuation center, we were given all the available information on the statues of the fire, and the risks to Calvin Crest property.

There were clear instructions and expectation given for our stay at the church. Prayers were offered for the firemen, Calvin Crest property, and for many of the anxieties of the staff, now finding themselves as evacuees. I believe that this gathering defused a lot of anxieties of the staff.

Regular updates were conducted. Group activities for bonding and diversion were implemented. Support and help was procured from the community. Shortcomings in the evacuation plans were identified and alternate ideas were discussed to improve the plan.

The management staff of Calvin Crest did an excellent job with the planning and execution of this evacuation, a job befitting a much larger organization with many more resources.

I can’t say enough about the patience, and the support for each other demonstrated by the summer staff. The generosity of the Oakhurst community was also amazing. The next time you’re in Oakhurst, stop and say “thank you” to the area businesses that supported Calvin Crest during the evacuation. I know that Me ‘n Ed’s Pizza is now my favorite pizza.

Jerel Steckling, Gustine