North Bay Residents Line Up to Get Free Emergency Radios at Giveaway

Wilson Walker reports on Sonoma County authorities giving out free emergency radios to residents worried about coming fire season (4-7-2021)

Video Transcript

- --Santa Rosa getting ahead of the fire season and giving thousands of residents a potentially life-saving tool for free. KPIX 5's Wilson Walker explains the strategy.

MARIA FERJANCSIK: Well, I take care of my mom. And she's in a wheelchair. So we've had to evacuate twice now in the last three, four years.

WILSON WALKER: Ask anyone who showed up here today, and they probably have more than one fire story.

JACKIE SIMONS: Yeah, we've actually been through two of the fires-- you know, 2017 and then this last year-- and evacuated for a week each time. You know, in the middle of the night.

WILSON WALKER: So everyone in this part of Sonoma County is now dialed in to the importance of communication, especially when things start to break down.

PAUL LOWENTHAL: 2017, we lost upwards of 68 cell phone towers. We had massive power outages from the infrastructure damage during the fire and during the winds. So the benefit of these radios is they're preprogrammed. They're ready to receive emergency alerts at Santa Rosa and Sonoma County.

- Hey, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

- You have a great day.

- You do the same.

WILSON WALKER: 12,000 of these radios will be given out thanks to the largest FEMA grant ever of its kind. So many people turned up here on day one that the fire department was a bit overwhelmed. But they were not entirely surprised.

- Have a good day--

PAUL LOWENTHAL: This community has been through a lot.

MARIA FERJANCSIK: Absolutely, and everyone's commenting about how this is a light year for rain. So everyone's worried again.

JACKIE SIMONS: It makes you nervous. You know, it's hard to live that way. But we get used to it, I guess.

WILSON WALKER: Fire officials say the calls and questions are coming early this year not unlike the anticipated fire danger.

PAUL LOWENTHAL: With the drought, with the concerns, we're going to probably end up with critical lack of lev-- moisture levels essentially here in Sonoma County as well as the North Bay.

WILSON WALKER: Don't have to look far to see the aftermath of the last fires. Now, this is being organized by the Santa Rosa Fire Department. Their turnout today might ultimately change their strategy for how they distribute the rest of those radios.

They really did have a big crowd today, and it's all dependent on their supply of radio. So more giveaways to come. Check with them for details. They're going to be doing it through the spring and the summer and on up to this anticipated fire season.

Live here in Santa Rosa, Wilson Walker, KPIX 5.