OAKMONT (KPIX) -- If a NOAA radio giveaway held in Sonoma County Wednesday was any indication, years of wildfires have people in the North Bay ready to take action ahead of the upcoming fire season.
"We've actually been through two of the fires; 2017 and then this last year," said resident Jackie Simons. "Evacuated for a week each time, you know? In the middle of the night."
Ask anyone who showed up at the emergency radio giveaway in Oakmont Wednesday and they probably had more than one fire story.
"I take care of my mom and she's in a wheelchair," said North Bay resident Maria Ferjancsik. "So we had to evacuate twice now in the last three or four years."
So everyone in this part of Sonoma County is now dialed in to the importance of communication, especially when things start to break down.
"In 2017, we lost upwards of 68 cell phone towers," explained Paul Lowenathal with the Santa Rosa Fire Department. "We had massive power outages from the infrastructure damage during the fire and the winds. So the benefit of these radios is that they're pre-programmed to be ready to receive emergency alerts in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County."
A total of 12,000 radios will be given out, thanks to the largest FEMA grant ever of its kind. So many people turned up here on the first day of the giveaway that the fire department was a bit overwhelmed, but they weren't entirely surprised.
"This community has been through a lot," Lowenathal explained.
"Absolutely," Ferjancsik added. "And everyone's commenting about how this is a light year for rain, so everyone is worried again."
"It makes you nervous," said Simons. "It's hard to live that way, but we get used to it, I guess."
Fire officials say the calls and questions are coming early this year, not unlike the anticipated fire danger.
"With the drought, we're probably going to end up with critical lack of moisture levels here in Sonoma County, as well as the North Bay," said Lowenathal.
Three more radio giveaway days are planned, though the events may depend on supply and demand for the devices. More information on the planned giveaways is available at the Santa Rosa Fire Department website.
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