Sheriff vs. Police vs. Firefighters: who does what in an emergency?

Which Local Authorities Are in Charge During a Wildfire Event?

During an active wildfire situation, a lot of people may be shouting what sound like commands and orders. If the shouting is coming from a well-meaning HOA president or the pushiest neighbor on your block, please ignore them and consult one of these three sources: Sheriff, Police, and Fire.

The role of the sheriff in during an emergency

The Sheriff’s Department works at the county level and operates with a broad view of the local geographical area. Due to their broad view, the Sheriff’s Department will determine when and where evacuation warnings or evacuation orders will be issued and coordinate the efforts to move people through the routes leading away from the fire during an actual evacuation.

The role of the police during an emergency

As local law enforcement entities, police departments handle communicating the Sheriff’s evacuation warnings and orders to residents in their respective jurisdictions, seeing to it that people understand the warnings and orders and comply appropriately. Police officers will also support the Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to move traffic as residents are in the process of evacuation.

The role of firefighters during an emergency

The primary role of the fire department during emergencies is to defend properties and structures. However, if residents ignore or cannot heed evacuation orders from the Sheriff’s Department and are threatened by fire, the firefighters will prioritize saving people first and property second. Firefighters have a better chance of extinguishing fires and defending structures when residents act on evacuation orders.

The best resources for up-to-date fire information

As we mentioned at the top of the blog, please only trust information from authorized sources. Here are a few places where you can get accurate general fire information:

CAL FIRE/Butte County Unit

Butte County Sheriff

CAL FIRE Communications Office

Phone: 916-653-5123 (Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)