National Public Works Week WINNER!

Some of the most fascinating stories happen in the aftermath of situations we wish were avoidable. The organization we’re honoring today faced some of the toughest obstacles and handled them with selflessness and bravery. What an impressive team!

Day 4 Winner  >  Sonoma County
Wildfire Recovery

This first-hand account was submitted by Monique Champman at Sonoma County. (Monique will be sharing additional recovery details at ACT18 in Palm Springs if you’d like to learn more.)

The night of October 8, 2017 forever changed our world in Sonoma County, California. The Tubbs wildfire, which began in Napa County, had traveled to 14 miles burning vegetation, homes, and business along the way, ignited by dry conditions and unusually high winds. Over the next several weeks, many other fires burned in the County and surrounding areas, claiming 43 lives and destroying over 5,100 homes.

In the early morning hours of October 9, Transportation and Public Works Road Maintenance workers were called upon as first responders to assist with road closures, clearing of burned debris, and to assist fire crews with water and fuel supply. Among this group were individuals whose homes had burned, and nevertheless worked to assist the community through this crisis. Power had been turned off in many areas of the County, including to our airport. Flights were grounded for several days, due to lack of power, combined with poor air quality and lack of available aviation employees. Generators were used to provide power to the airport and road maintenance yards, so emergency operations could continue. Transit buses were used to evacuate hospitals, schools, and other critical areas. At times, our buses drove through areas actively burning, with few options for alternate routes.

Our newly promoted director, Johannes Hoevertsz, was scheduled to start his new assignment on October 9, and was ultimately sworn in at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Over the next several weeks, Transportation and Public Works staff, along with hundreds of other employees, managed emergency operations for the County, many while also performing their regular duties. Our department has played a key role in Countywide recovery efforts, and we are still working through debris removal in the County right-of-way. Over 10,000 burned trees have been identified as a risk to the public and require removal. Our landfill has sustained significant impacts from the unanticipated debris resulting from fire cleanup efforts.

Since the wildfires were contained in late October, Sonoma County Transportation and Public works has been seeking state and federal reimbursement opportunities, and Lucity has played a big role in facilitating the application process. Our Road Maintenance crews used Lucity track each project to repair infrastructure damaged during the wildfires and that data has helped to support funding requests. There is still a long road ahead for fire recovery, and our department is committed to assisting the public through this process.

We are proud of the work performed by our staff during this crisis despite the tremendous impacts to their lives. The events of this disaster highlighted their continued dedication to the community, and their willingness to help without hesitation.

Congratulations on your accomplishments, and thank you for your dedication!

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