Tuolumne County, CA is home to over 55,000 people and draws tourists from around the globe to visit its striking scenery and neighboring Yosemite National Park. The region has, unfortunately, also been in close proximity to several destructive wildfires in recent years. These disasters prompted the Tuolumne County Transportation Council (TCTC) to further expand their understanding of wildfire risk and refine their emergency strategies.
Safety engineering firm Jensen Hughes mapped seven wildfire scenarios that would result in large scale evacuations, and based on these scenarios, the Kittelson team modeled transportation patterns and identified potential barriers to an effective evacuation, both at the site of the fire and on major roads downstream of the fire. Kittelson collaborated with Dr. Stephen Wong (University of Alberta) during this process to identify likely evacuation behavior, with an emphasis on at-risk populations. Based on the findings, we developed strategies for increasing the area’s resiliency, ranging from operational improvements during an evacuation event to capital improvements like widening road shoulders. Working with TCTC and the project team, as well as Tuolumne County Office of Emergency Services (OES) and local stakeholders, we also looked at ways to improve communication strategies before, during, and after an evacuation.
Planning for More Efficient and Equitable Evacuations
The findings from this study will ultimately be incorporated into the regional transportation plan, which opens the door for funding and implementation. The study has a particular focus on vulnerable communities and populations within Tuolumne County, identifying potential route improvements for evacuations or emergency vehicles for communities at increased risk due to limited access. Read more about it here.