NRG Firewise event – We did it! - Merit Educational Consultants

NRG Firewise event – We did it!

The NRG Firewise event at the Locatelli Ranch was more than just a Firewise meeting. Some neighbors from our 260-household community met for the first time (in over 20 years!) and others reconnected as they came together for a common goal: learn what we can do to prepare for the inevitable wildfire.

Eighteen experts presented their “elevator speeches” to educate and inspire the guests. Supervisor Manu Koenig opened with good news about 2 road repairs and what we can do to move along easement issues that are holding up the third road repair. These speakers discussed how emergency communication works from the OR3 (9-1-1) to Central Fire/Cal Fire to ARES (ham radio). The sheriff explained how CodeRED sends out messages to those with cell reception and electricity, and then how they knock on doors when power is out. CalFire discussed Zonehaven, and how we need to “Know Your Zone” to get evacuation orders. We encouraged all guests to get the 4” white reflective address signs so fire and EMS can find homes when it’s dark and smoky.



Central Fire shared their upcoming Evacuation Smarts classes and what homeowners need to do to clear all combustible material around homes. We even learned equine evacuation tips. To encourage neighbors and road associations to work together, Rod Caborn gave tips on how to plan work parties to get the jobs done. RCD explained how families can get free chipping services.

Keith Trinity and Eric Swenson preprogrammed the Bao Feng UV-82C radios for our community. These MURS radios don’t require licenses (like ham radios) and they’re programmed so our entire community can connect on them. We can even hear fire, sheriff, and PG&E radio transmissions and the radios have been locked so we don’t accidentally interrupt those channels.


My daughter Nicole D’Arcy, ER doctor at Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center, gave tips on wearing non-synthetic materials during evacuations (synthetic fabrics melt on skin) and how to treat burns (with honey) and other injuries. One of my college advisory students, Sean Gomez, presented his cyber deck project that is designed to help our Firewise community during catastrophic disasters.

Our vendors brought innovative solutions using water from pools to refill fire trucks and roof-top sprinkler systems. Guests brought their metal fire extinguishers to be refilled at the event. California Fair Plan and State Farm agents were available to answer questions about non-renewed policies and to offer 10% and 2% discounts, respectively, for our community because we are now Firewise recognized.

During lunch, Harpin’ Jonny and Clark played the harmonica and guitar – creating excellent entertainment. Guests enjoyed delicious burritos from Taqueria Vallarta. And the best part – guests talked to Central Fire, Cal Fire, the sheriff, Dr. D’Arcy, vendors, and other neighbors. We had over a dozen Firewise leaders from nearby communities join us to collaborate and discuss working together.

After the 2 sessions of speeches, Carlon’s Fire Protection demonstrated how to use a fire extinguisher and allowed guests to put out fires. Then Frank Locatelli and I demonstrated how to safely use a chainsaw. Frank used his gas-powered chainsaw, and I used my 10-inch battery-powered Makita. Both cut through tree branches like they were butter.

Thanks to the Locatellis for preparing their property for 150+ guests. Special thanks to Manu Koenig, David Reid, Keith Trinity, Eric Swenson, John Gerhardt, David Dean, Marco Mack, and Nicole D’Arcy for speaking during the first session.


Thanks to Marco Mack, Nick Baldridge, Sean Murray, Tony Akin, Angie Richman, Rod Caborn, Crystal English, Phil Irwin, and Sean Gomez for speaking during the last session. Appreciate vendors Cindy Weigelt, Karen Corscadden, Drew Hogner, Alicia Murdock, and Danny Cortazzo for sharing their services and products with our community.

We are fortunate to have a responsive and supportive fire department. Central Fire’s Chief John Walbridge, Marshal Mike DeMars, Deputy Marshal Marco Mack, and Wildland Fire Hazard Specialist Tony Akin – and incoming Chief Jason Nee – have coached and guided me as I organized our NRG Firewise community. They’ve met with our road associations, individual homeowners, and nearby Firewise groups to give us tools we need to protect our homes.

Thanks to Carolyn Stallard and Dave Warren for helping with Firewise maps and spreadsheets, and thanks to our event volunteers: Teresa and Frank Locatelli, Nate Pickens, Kelly Gardner, Rick and Ruth Moe, Dania Moss, Rod Caborn, Spencer Balliet, Keith Gudger,  and Becky Steinbruner.

We now face fire season. Roll up your sleeves and let’s work together! Join the forum ( to stay informed. Complete the Phone Tree and keep it updated so we can reach you in an emergency.

We can do this!