Bill - sorry to hear about your friend's loss.
Putting a trailer near your house (if allowed/practical) and having a written list of what to take is a good minimum step. If you're already barred from entering your neighborhood, you're out of luck anyway, however. I have CDs and DVDs of photos at my office in a drawer - far away from my house.
We got the reverse 911 call on our cell phones a full day after the mandatory evac - about 1pm on Wed. I also got the email a day late. Those were useless.
Anyway - neighbors calling neighbors is the best way to get the word out. You could not see the fire from our house, although the fire was less than a mile away. We called a neighbor who had no idea there was a fire. Our whole neighborhood bailed out several hours in advance of the mandatory evac. notice. Oddly, my AAA homeowners agent called at 3pm Tues, less than 2 hrs. after the fire was spotted and asked if they could help.
Colo Springs, CO
'78 FJ40, '89 FJ62, '98 4Runner