Pandemic mitigation and wildfires in Mendocino County

DP+S is part of a team working on the Mendocino County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan 2020 Update along with updates to the County’s General Plan Safety Element and a new Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

The MJHMP focuses on pandemic, as the County and country still face the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But how can a County effectively mitigate for pandemic?

The County, with support and research from DP+S, identified opportunities to provide adequate and improved ventilation in critical facilities to maintain appropriate staffing needs during pandemic. The County also will pursue adequate barriers to public-interfacing areas of County facilities.

A central focus of the Mendocino County MJHMP is planning ahead for the occurrence of emergency response in the face of a natural hazard such as wildfire, earthquake, or flood in the midst of a pandemic like COVID-19 that requires safe distancing and adequate ventilation to reduce the spread of infection.

Photo from
Example of make-shift public emergency response during COVID-19. Photo by

Unfortunately, during drafting of the Mendocino HMP the County found themselves in the midst of this exact scenario as what became the August Complex fire, the largest wildfire in California, unfolded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, most if not all of the sheltering occurred in hotels, not mass shelters.

Oak Creek Fire, August 2020. Photo by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

In this MJHMP Update, the County also prioritized adequate ventilation and barriers for mass shelters as a future project for which to seek funding.

DP+S looks forward to formalizing this Plan Update and supporting the County and participating jurisdictions as they move into implementation of the HMP.