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    Firefighters from El Dorado Hills and Folsom practice clearing a firebreak by hand during a multi-agency disaster drill Saturday in the Lakehills neighborhood of El Dorado Hills. "It's quite an exercise they go through here," said one property owner, K. Sanui.


    A fire helicopter dumps hundreds of gallons of water on a target near El Sur Court in El Dorado Hills during Saturday's disaster drill.

Hundreds drill on what to do if wildfire threatens El Dorado Hills

Published: Sunday, Jun. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2012 - 10:38 am

More than 300 firefighters, law enforcement officers, Red Cross volunteers and others participated Saturday in a huge disaster drill covering a 237-home neighborhood in El Dorado Hills.

Just as important to the drill was Wayne Eastman, with his two dogs, six cats and a chinchilla. He brought them to a mock evacuation center at Oak Ridge High School.

Eastman, a resident of the Lakehills neighborhood of El Dorado Hills, was not required to round up his pets as part of Saturday's practice effort at battling a wildfire in a suburban neighborhood.

In fact, showing up at the evacuation center at all was completely voluntary for residents, though dozens did.

But it was important to officials.

"The critical part to us is to involve the community," said El Dorado Hills Fire Chief Dave Roberts.

The drill was coordinated by his department and included the participation of Folsom Fire Department and Cal Fire, the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District and the California Highway Patrol.

It started, or was supposed to, with an 8:15 a.m. reverse 911 call to all the homes in Lakehills.

"We didn't get the reverse 911," said Eastman.

"That's one of the things we've uncovered by doing the drill," said Roberts. "That's what this is all about."

To supplement the reverse 911, the district has an application where people can sign up online to get smart phone calls or cell text messages.

Those messages got through right away.

"Definitely, I'll go back to the website," said Amey Adkins, who voluntarily showed up at the evacuation site with her 4-year-old son, Cooper.

"I thought it was important we participate," she said, noting that residents are always conscious of the area's fire danger.

Cooper was ready for action in a firefighter costume, with hat, ax and extinguisher.

While Adkins was able to pick up some first-aid supplies for her home, pet owners like Eastman were able to learn about procedures for pet evacuation and get some canine trail mix.

In a real disaster, those who can't get their animals out – because they're at work when a fire starts, for example – would come to the evacuation center and notify authorities, who would handle pet evacuations.

The center would be equipped not only for dogs and cats but for snakes, potbelly pigs, whatever, said Lisa Blake, an animal control officer. Another center would be equipped for horses and other large animals.

Away from the evacuation center Saturday, crews practiced myriad scenarios.

In one location, they were to lay fire hose through El Sur Court to get at a fire behind a home.

In the process, they "discovered" an elderly resident – a role-playing firefighter – who had to be carried to safety.

Right after that, a Sac Metro Fire helicopter dumped water sucked from Folsom Lake onto a target that indicated where the fire was supposed to be, behind the house.

Elsewhere, firefighters cleared firebreaks by hand on the Lakehills Drive property of K. Sanui, who watched with neighboring residents.

"It's quite an exercise they go through here," Sanui said.

The disruption is worth it to residents, said Ray Moitoza, the neighbor. "Absolutely, I saw the fire here 12 to 15 years ago," he said.

That blaze burned toward Moitoza's house before firefighters brought in old equipment that could get farther down the hill to fight it.

Between water drops Saturday, the helicopter landed at Marina Village Intermediate School, command center for the exercise.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Carlos Alcalá

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