Learning from California wildfires: Every second counts

At Martha Lake Fire Station 21 in South Snohomish County, the motto is “Every second counts; plan two ways out.”

“The idea is to have two escape routes from every room in your house,” Fire Chief Bruce Stedman said.

The saying is on the minds of some of our youngest citizens such as Adele, 5, of Snohomish County. She and her family are at the fire station for an open house aimed at families.

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“You touch the door and feel if it's hot or not. If it's hot, then you don't open,” Adele said.

Fire departments want kids and parents to have an escape plan, especially after the ruinous wildfires in California, where authorities say hesitation proved lethal.

“Don't wait,” Chief Stedman said. “As we've seen in California, over 35 deaths related to people who didn't get out as early as they possibly could have.”

Stedman worked on strike teams in California for more than 30 years.

“I know the tragedy. I know the despair, the impacts it has not only on individuals but on communities, and it's very devastating,” Chief Stedman said.

Saturday afternoon, a strike team from the South Snohomish County Fire District arrived in Napa and was immediately deployed to protect structures. Four firefighters will not only help people there but bring back vital experience to fight fires when they return to Western Washington.

The team is expected to be in Napa for 18 days.