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There have been many discussions, and there are opposing points of view, as to whether people should evacuate their private property when given an order to do so by the State, a County, a municipality, or first responders. Many well prepared, experienced residents have assisted in saving property and life. Some unprepared and unknowledgeable persons have died staying behind. Simply put, MOST people should evacuate upon official announcements from emergency management authorities.

However, most homes in a suburban setting do not burn down as a result of direct contact of advancing flames as some may envision. Rather, these fires usually begin as small fires from blowing embers and other burning debris which ignite exterior items (fences, trees, low brush), or embed in a roof or under eaves. Most of these fires start small and then spread to structures. These smaller fires have been successfully extinguished by homeowners during fire events, minimizing structural damage and the need for response by fire equipment.

"MANDATORY" Evacuation
California law authorizes officers to restrict access to any area where a menace to public health or safety exists due to a calamity such as flood, storm, fire, earthquake, explosion, accident or other disaster. (Penal Code 409.5) HOWEVER, THERE IS NO CALIFORNIA PRECEDENT (Court opinion) which gives law enforcement such restrictive authority over PRIVATE PROPERTY, nor any law that requires one to to EVACUATE their own residence. There is no precedent that one must leave their own property in time of fire, flood, or other calamity/distaster. Some legal experts have opined that such a law would be unconstitutional. Further, there is no law that gives law enforcement any right to enter private property for the purpose of a 'mandatory evacuation' against their will.

The majority of San Elijo Hills has wide street access with significant set-back from structures, and modern cul-de-sacs allowing for truck turn around. Its neighborhoods are not similar to the backcountry areas with dense brush, narrow roads, and dead-end streets where a majority of county fire deaths have occurred. However, many homes are located in the urban-wildland interface.

New Philosophy on Mandatory Evacuation: Ventura County
. . . the Ventura County Fire Department is changing its philosophy toward evacuations, Roper said. Rather than just tell people to get out when a fire approaches, the Fire Department will teach people how to protect their homes, tell them exactly how much danger they're facing and let them decide whether to stay or go. "This is a major paradigm shift," Roper said. "It's going to take many years to get this through to the public."
. . .

The mandatory evacuations are misnamed, too.

California law doesn't give fire or police departments the power to force people to leave their homes, so a "recommended evacuation" just means that officials think you should probably leave, and a "mandatory evacuation" means they feel more strongly about it. "Recognizing that we can't forcibly remove someone from the area ... why not make the public part of the solution?" Roper said.
. . .

Then, if a fire comes and residents decide to stay, they can take further measures such as dressing in cotton clothing - which is safer than synthetic fiber - and putting out embers before they turn into real fires. Evidence from last year's San Diego fires and previous wildfires in Australia show that people who stay in their homes can reduce the risk of fire spreading from house to house, without any increased risk to their own safety, Roper said.
. . .

"When a fire affects a community, we have just enough firetrucks usually to follow the fire front," he said. "As this fire front moves, it leaves embers around the homes, and if nobody is there to watch those homes, these embers find a place to start a fire. That's what happened in San Diego."

Read the entire story here.

Great evacuation and shelter in place information from Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District
    Some homeowners risk it all to stay and fight
Results vary when refusing to evacuate

It is a conflict that is replayed during every wildfire season, and especially in the past week: Time and again, authorities warn people to evacuate their houses when told to do so...

The temptation might be to condemn such behavior. . .

Yet as the fires progressed this week, even some firefighters couldn't find it in themselves to second-guess homeowners who remained on their land. . .

Rather than yell at him or drag him away, the firefighters simply told him to be careful and to stay on the high ground. Then he and the crew attacked the flames together. . . .

"There's no question in my mind that if I weren't here, my house would have gone," Nadal said. . . .

Nonetheless, law enforcement officials say homeowners have no legal obligation to flee, even when authorities issue a so-called mandatory evacuation order.
"If they do not want to leave their home, it's their call," said Jan Caldwell, [San Diego County] Sheriff's Department spokeswoman. "If they don't want to go, it's not a crime."

San Diego Union Tribune: Full story here.

California OES documents:
Legal Guidelines for (Flood) Evacuation - FEAT product

Local Government Guide for Emergency Proclamations
NOTE: This is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Each circumstance and situation is different, and disobeying authorities could lead to arrest, detainment and/or conviction in a given case.