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Sonoma County Gazette


Community Emergency Response Team 

Feb 27, 2019
by Jeniffer Wertz, Russian River Advocates


Who Will Save Us When the Huge Fire Comes?

Part 1 – Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Yes, I intentionally asked WHEN, rather than IF.  I hope I have gotten your attention, because this could literally make the difference between life and death for many of us in this community.

We all saw what happened within about 15-20 miles of us less than two years ago, followed by all of the major fires within the State last summer, and ultimately the unbelievable reality of a fire that was twice as destructive as ours, basically taking out the whole town of Paradise.  Here is our new reality, which scientists have been jumping up and down trying to warn us about for more than two decades.  It’s here now, and it’s real.  These new fires have been said to be able to move huge walls of flames at up to about 60 mph, destroying everything in their path.  

We have seen people trying to evacuate with only seconds or minutes notice, only to crash their cars in a state of panic, or have to abandon them and literally run for their lives due to traffic jams.  We have seen our own cell, television, and internet services fail.  We live in a high risk area with few first responders who have limited resources, and even fewer evacuation routes.  We all need to be prepared.

A few weeks ago, I met with Russian River Fire Protection District Acting Chief Ryan Lantz, andCommunity Emergency Response Team (CERT) Volunteer Coordinator, Marilyn Fox, to learn more about what we need to be prepared.

The CERT program is a local volunteer program, in which local residents receive FEMA training to assist others in their community during a major disaster, when professional responders are not immediately available.  They are trained in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. They may be called upon by the sponsoring local government agency to assist in the event of an emergency.   The local sponsoring agency for our CERT volunteers is the Russian River Fire Protection District.  Please visit their website for more info at

Our local CERT program is relatively new.  At this time, we have about 20 local CERT volunteers between Forestville and Cazadero, who have received the FEMA training.  They are actively recruiting for more volunteers to cover all neighborhoods in the Lower River area.  While anyone who wishes to volunteer is welcome and appreciated, it would be especially helpful if we could get more younger generation volunteers involved in fire services.  I heard someone recently say “They just don’t make them like Baxman anymore.”  Volunteering can help young people who may be interested in later pursuing a career as a first responder.

Besides more volunteers, the CERT program needs funding.  They have a donated trailer for equipment and supplies, however they have no funding source at this time, no equipment, and no supplies.  They provided a list of basic equipment and supplies needed, with a total cost of about $8,100.  The Russian River Alliance non-profit has applied for three separate small grants to try and help raise some of the funds needed (two applications were for TOT community grant programs).  

If you would like to donate to help these volunteers with the basic equipment and supplies they may need to literally save our lives in the event of a major fire or other disaster, please send a check made payable to the Russian River Fire Protection District (noting to be used for the CERT program), attention to Acting Chief Ryan Lantz, PO Box 367, Guerneville, Ca. 95446.

Part 2 in April will focus on the needs of the Russian River Fire Protection District.  Please take the time to share this information with your family, friends, and neighbors. Let’s get prepared together!

If you would like to learn more about the Lower River Area Community Alliances, become involved as a volunteer, or if you have some community concerns or solutions you would like to share, you can “like” our Guerneville Community Alliance and/or Russian River Alliance FB pages, or visit our website at  You can also contact Jeniffer Wertz at 707-483-7038 (Guerneville), or Chuck Ramsey at 707-239-1639 (Monte Rio).




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