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Emergency Broadcast Alerts Never Issued For Almeda Fire

These alerts interrupt broadcasts on local TV and radio stations to deliver crucial information to people during a disaster, like a wildfire.

The county instead relied on an opt-in alert system called Everbridge to deliver messages to people’s phones. But many residents say they never got evacuation notices from that either.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, emergency center director John Vial said it’s too soon to say what went wrong.

"When things have calmed down to a level that we could truly understand what happened, the county will be conducting a thorough debrief on these systems, evaluating the pros and cons of each, and evaluating our performance and how we did, and changes will be made if necessary,” Vial told reporters.

Sheriff Nathan Sickler said a county-wide alert could have caused too many people to evacuate at the same time.

“If those roads were blocked any more, we can’t say what would have occurred but it could have been tragic,” Sickler said. “We had a hard enough time clearing out the roads as it was.”

Most people who didn’t evacuate in time ended up having law enforcement or firefighters banging on their doors, giving them just minutes to flee the fast-moving flames.

The Almeda Fire destroyed more than 2,300 structures in Talent and Phoenix. County officials say they’re still assessing how many housing units were in each structure.

Much of Talent and Phoenix remain closed, including Oregon Highway 99, because of safety hazards.

Copyright 2020 Jefferson Public Radio

April Ehrlich began freelancing for Jefferson Public Radio in the fall of 2016, and then officially joined the team as its Morning Edition Host and a Jefferson Exchange producer in August 2017.