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Assessing the Damage: The Destruction of the 2017 Northern California Wildfires

The 2017 fire season has been one of the worst in US history, especially for California.  During the most intense period beginning in early October and continuing until the end of the month, eight counties in Northern California were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to over 40 fatalities, nearly 250,000 scorched acres and nearly 9,000 structures destroyed.  The blazes burned through communities, literally turning homes and businesses into dust. The estimated 20,000 Northern Californian residents who evacuated towns and cities told stories of narrow escapes from fires that erupted and forced them to flee even before text messages and other alerts were sent out by emergency warning systems.  Those that were lucky enough to escape returned to what is left of their homes, businesses, and farms.

The California Department of Insurance said that as of October 26, losses reported from 15 major insurers totaled $3.3 billion, including residential and commercial property, personal and commercial auto, agriculture and watercraft.  Farmers who lost both their homes and crops suffered the most during and after the smoke settled.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE EFFECTS ON THE WINE INDUSTRY

Early estimates have revealed that the 2017 fires have consumed nearly 200,000 acres of farmland.  This was likely a cause for concern for many, as the multibillion dollar industry employs many workers in the area. In Napa Valley alone, wineries and vineyards employ almost half of the county’s workforce. However, the wine industry was largely spared as most of the wine region’s grapes had been harvested when the fires started in early October.  Moreover, the blazes did not linger at the vineyards due to the implementation of fire breaks and the practice of keeping wine rows free of grasses.  

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA MARIJUANA FARMS UP IN SMOKE

Cannabis farmers in Sonoma County and Mendocino County, the center of California’s recently legalized $21 billion marijuana industry, were not so lucky. Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, has said that at least 30 farms had significant crop losses.  Allen says that the cannabis farmers’ situation is exacerbated because insurance policies for marijuana crops are virtually nonexistent and since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, California growers are not permitted to put cash from their sales into banks.  This has left farm owners of small-scale operations who put their life savings into a farm looking for alternatives to state and municipal fire suppression.

CAL FIRE’S RESPONSE TO THE WILDFIRES

The swift and effective reaction from California’s emergency services has no doubt saved many lives and properties as these fires flourished in conditions of high winds and dry heat amidst a drought. The agency responsible to fight the 2017 fires in Northern California, CAL FIRE, had the monumental task of preserving life and property during the ordeal.  As the fires raged, CAL FIRE quickly experienced a staffing shortage of personnel rigged with vehicles rated for rough terrain and capable of such extreme firefighting conditions.  The agency quickly turned to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho for help.  NIFC then deployed equipment and personnel from Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oregon, as well as teams from as far away as Canada and Australia.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SAFE & DURABLE FIRE APPARATUS

Unfortunately, citizens weren’t the only casualties during the wildfires. Volunteer firefighter Garrett Paiz who was driving a privately owned water tender down Oakville Grade in the area around the Nuns fire, was killed when the tender careened out of control down the steep grade.

Protecting Our Nation’s Firefighters for Over 25 Years

For over 25 years, Boise Mobile Equipment has served our nation’s fire fighters by engineering state-of-the-art fire engines. The safety of our nation’s firefighters is our number one priority, so BME fire apparatus are built to protect fire crews by shielding them from the lethal elements they encounter when battling fires. Our fire trucks are engineered for rugged off-road terrain, built with reinforced TIG-welded aluminum tubular bodies and are tilt-tested to withstand horizontal grades of more than 32 degrees. BME fire trucks are trusted by fire service organizations like CAL FIRE and the USDA Forest Service, as well as numerous municipal fire departments across the country. In fact, many of our apparatus were used to help battle the recent ‘mega fires’ in California, Montana, Oregon and Idaho.

Our engineers and mechanics are highly trained, allowing them to manufacture custom vehicles built to any specs. We understand that one size does not fit all in the fire industry, as every department and organization needs different equipment to do its job. That’s why we are known for our ‘built-to-spec’ manufacturing process. Rather than the traditional ‘cookie cutter’ manufacturing process where each truck is built the same and additional specs are charged as add-ons, BME builds each of its vehicles custom to every department’s specific needs.

BME’s recent contracts with Forest Service and CAL FIRE allow for tag-on’s that could make the purchase of your new apparatus faster, easier and far less costly.  For more information regarding the purchase of a BME fire apparatus, please contact us by phone at (800) 445-8342.

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