Solano County Fair Pacts With FEMA

Fairgrounds to be used to assemble and store emergency housing

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: November 8, 2017

The fenced-off area on Solano fairgrounds, Vallejo, Calif., where FEMA will set up shop for temporary housing.

Solano County Fair, Vallejo, Calif., has entered into a $50,000, 18-month contract with the federal government to assemble and store temporary emergency housing on six acres of fairground property.

The mobile units that arrived previously, provided temporary housing for victims of the recent Napa and Sonoma County wildfires.

Steve_Haines_22.jpgStephen Hales, Solano County Fair, GM.

“They approached us in the middle of the whole firestorm fiasco,” said Stephen Hales, GM. “It seemed like a reasonable request and we were able to come to a reasonable accommodation.”

“This is what facilities like us do, and it’s what we are here for,” he said. “It seemed like a good fit. We quickly figured out we could operate with a slightly smaller footprint.”

The government-run section will solely house mobile or modular units. “There will be no people living on the property, just the trailers,” he said. It’s expected that FEMA will have a sizable crew working on the trailers and that it may run 24/7.

FEMA moved in on Nov. 4, following construction of a fence that will separate their portion of the property from the rest of the fairgrounds. “Part of the agreement was FEMA paying for the new fence,” he said.

Hales said the venue is used to being “a good community member” and that “part of the reason we were on their radar is because we’ve been operating a large-animal evacuation shelter for some time now.”

Just this year, the fairgrounds took in close to 600 animals, mostly from the wildfires that have burned through entire Northern California neighborhoods, including farms. “We’ve had cows, horses, cats, chickens, ducks and other animals,” said Hales.

Hales is not concerned with the FEMA project interfering with other fair activities. “They are taking over a portion of the facility that we’ve previously used for overflow parking,” he said. “It’s easily separated by the new fence; they will have their own entrance from one of our perimeter streets, and I’m satisfied that this deal will not impact any of our operations. What it mostly means is some people will have to walk a little farther. I expect next year’s fair to go on without anyone really noticing that the FEMA section is even there.”

Dennis Yen, VP of the fair board voted for the contract. “This deal was born out of the disaster from the fires up north,” he said. “We have 150 acres, some of which are undeveloped, and we determined that we could accommodate their requirements.”

“My first concern was that we’re in an urban area, and we didn’t want to alarm our residents and have them think we were building a place for strangers to come and camp out in, or build something that looked like a prison,” said Yen. “FEMA satisfied us that their intention was just to service vehicles, and it will be like a big RV yard.”

“FEMA will bring in the vehicles, rehab them, clean them and redeploy them back into the neighborhoods where they are needed,” he said.

Yen was also pleased with the security measures built into the contract. “FEMA will bring in private security and no one will be allowed on the property without clearance.”

No one knows what’s going to be needed for the next emergency and we’re happy to be part of the solution, he said.

Solano County Fair was held last Aug. 2-6 and saw around 40,000 people pass through its gates. The next fair will be on approximately the same dates in 2018.


  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: November 8, 2017