It seems that every year in California brings with it longer, more intense forest fires. If you live in the areas of the state that are most often affected by these deadly fiery tempests, then you are familiar with mandatory evacuations. While most citizens choose to heed the directive to leave their home and head toward safer areas until the danger passes by, some people choose to ignore the evacuation order. All the while, hoping the forest fire will pass by, leaving their property unharmed.
Ignoring mandatory evacuation orders is not just something that happens with forest fires. When major hurricanes are expected to strike over land, Governors and/or city leaders will order evacuations. But, as we all saw on the television with Hurricane Katrina, a significant number of people ignored the warnings—at great cost. You may remember seeing footage of people standing on New Orleans rooftops after the storm, hoping to be rescued from the deluge.
You may not be aware of the fact that ignoring mandatory evacuation directives is against the law in California. The California Emergency Services Act gives the Governor the authority to declare an emergency, giving current Governor Jerry Brown the right to harness all police power—in order to protect life and property. People who choose to ignore mandatory evacuations can be found guilty of a misdemeanor (Gov. Code 8665), ABC 10 reports, a conviction that can carry a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both.
Ignoring Mandatory Evacuation Orders and Beyond
Additionally, failing to leave a potentially dangerous area, one could also find themselves in hot water for entering a natural disaster area, according to the article. People who ignore warnings about keeping out of places that have been deemed unsafe can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, under California Penal Code 409.5. What’s more, under California law, any person who purposefully resists, delays, or obstructs police and firefighters can be fined $1,000 or up to a year a year in jail [Penal Code 148(a)].
Some of you reading this may be wondering how often people are charged for failing to follow official directives to leave? Well, the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), which aids local authorities with their own emergency plans, says the aforementioned laws are rarely enforced.
Better Safe, Than Sorry
In any circumstance of natural disaster, or potential for one, it is best to err on the side of caution. Even though a storm or fire may pass you by, there is no way of knowing that for sure. This month, Gov. Brown declared an emergency over the Detwiler Fire. People living in certain towns outlying Yosemite National Park, such as Mariposa, have been ordered to evacuate. We hope that you have chosen to move to safety.