The Carr Fire, one of a spate of wildfires that have ravaged Northern California for more than a week, posed challenges but no direct threat to Shasta County’s IT operations.

County CIO Tom Schreiber said Monday that the fire has had a more direct effect on his agency’s staffers than on its IT services.

“Monday and Monday night (last week), we knew Cal Fire was on it, and the sheriff was doing patrols,” Schreiber told Techwire in an interview. “It blew up Tuesday night — and for us, that’s when things got really hectic.

“Our role was basically a support role — until it came toward Redding,” Schreiber said. “So we pulled out the emergency plans, and we had to go through the process with the management team.” 

Those emergency plans, kept in a three-ring binder, cover various scenarios and contingencies, but they’re “geared more toward outages — disasters that cause outages that involve servers, software and staffing.”

“The biggest problem we had was staff being evacuated from their homes.”

For a couple of days last week — Tuesday and Wednesday — the fire continued its lethal spread. The county IT operation was making do with reduced staff while Cal Fire and other firefighters from other agencies struggled to contain the blaze.

“We asked, ‘What is it that’s needed from us?’” Schreiber recounted. “We reached out to the OES (Office of Emergency Services) and the Sheriff’s Office and said, ‘Let us know what you need.’”

Because Shasta County outsources its radio services, Schreiber’s team didn’t need to worry about maintaining antennas, repeaters, generators and other radio equipment.

“We made sure they got the phone lines and the network connectivity when and where they needed it,” he said.

By Wednesday, it was clear that the Carr Fire wasn’t just another seasonal conflagration of the kind California deals with regularly. This was a beast.

Jason Eatmon, vice president and principal of the Redding-based IT firm Development Group Inc. (DGI), began posting publicly on LinkedIn and on his company blog:

“DGI customers affected by the NorCal wildfires** Call us … immediately so we can help you with your emergency IT operations at no cost to you. We've set up temporary workstations with phones, voicemail and computers so you can complete your time-sensitive work in safety and comfort. We have staff on hand to assist with IP phones and call routing. We can host your physical and virtual servers to get public applications back online. We have water and snacks on hand. Stay safe! — Team DGI.”

Eatmon also posted: “Two of our beloved DGI families have lost their homes, and several more are still in danger, but DGI is up and running and ready to serve our community in any way that we can.”

In an interview with Techwire last week, Eatmon explained his company’s focus on the education market: “We’re all about serving the public servant,” he said. “A lot of these folks could go into the private sector and make way more money, but they don’t. So we’re very passionate about serving those who serve the public. I’m ex-military, as are many of our customers.”

Eatmon said he had some takers for his offer of emergency IT facilities and services.

“We had some local community centers, some from the commercial sector. … At one point, we had (companies representing) $500 million worth of revenue running through my data center.”

As Thursday turned to Friday, meanwhile, CIO Schreiber said the smoke became a big problem for those county IT staffers who hadn’t already evacuated.

“Most people needed to go,” Schreiber said. “It was coming right toward downtown. We knew who was left. So from a safety perspective, we sent staff home. We stayed in touch with email and texting. We sent people to OES (Office of Emergency Services), and the GIS folks helped with mapping.”

Eatmon said he was confident that his customers’ data is protected, come what may from the Carr Fire.

“My data center is replicated on LA1 (data center),” he said. “And if THAT data disappears, then that’s the zombie apocalypse.”