The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved (Supervisor Jeff Hewitt was absent) the proposed Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) without discussion or debate. The plan was submitted to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The EOP, which the county Emergency Management Department (EMD) completed, is a major revision from the previous EOP, prepared in 2006. The new version has 21 sections, which include topics such as transportation, communications, fire and rescue, care and shelter, hazardous materials, utilities, evacuation and repopulation, animal care and long-term recovery. 

The EOP establishes broad guidelines with general guidance and identification of requirements imposed by federal or state laws.

Regarding evacuation, this chapter emphatically states that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) is the lead agency. However, other county, state and federal agencies may be involved depending on the fire locations. County agencies would include EMD, Cal Fire, public health and others.

The evacuation section reads, “as part of the unified command, the RCSD will identify available and appropriate evacuation routes and coordinate evacuation traffic management with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Highway Patrol (CHP), other supporting agencies, and other jurisdictions.

“The decision whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place must be carefully considered with the timing and nature of the incident. This decision is made by first responders in the field by the established Incident Command (IC) or Unified Command (UC) … Tactical decisions — such as detailed evacuation areas, specific routes, road closures and temporary evacuation points — are decided in the field by IC or UC based upon the dynamics of the incident.” 

Later in the week, Bruce Barton again replied to a public records request from local resident Susan Nash about details for any potential evacuation of Idyllwild. He responded as he had in July, “We believe there is great risk to public safety personnel and the public should the information contained in the MAST document be misused.”

He added that the MAST document contains information on locations for possible equipment staging, an incident command post, helicopter landing, water and other tactical level information. Arsonists were responsible for starting the Esperanza, Cranston and Holy Fires. Consequently, county public safety officials do not want to risk the public or safety personnel lives if the tactical information were to be misused.

“We strongly believe that the public interest in not making the record public outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record,” he concluded.