WILLITS, 7/8/20 — A set of structure fires in Covelo, which spotted into nearby vegetation, led to an evacuation warning being issued for the immediate vicinity, this afternoon. However, that warning was lifted soon thereafter, and no actual evacuation order was ever issued.
The fire was quickly handled by the Covelo Fire Department, with some assistance from Cal Fire, but it appears that two structures were substantially damaged.
As Sheriff Matt Kendall explained in a brief interview, the technology for sending out evacuation alerts has improved a great deal in the past couple years and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is now able to send out evacuation warnings in an extremely targeted fashion. Officials can now directly alert people in a half mile radius of a point, rather than having to issue a blanket alert for the entire region or county.
What this new ability to do pinpoint alert targeting means is that officials are now apt to send alerts earlier, and more frequently, because those alerts will be targeted to a much smaller group of people who are within range of the fire.
In recent years authorities have gained the ability to send alerts through IPAWS, Nixle, Everbridge, and the reverse 911 system. Asked about these new more targeted alert abilities, Kendall said, “The capability to dial it down to where you need is really helpful.” He added that in the past there was greater tension between an alert being “justified,” but also being sent to a “reasonable” number of people, saying that sending the alerts too frequently to too many people, “becomes the boy who cried wolf.”