• How to Defend Your Home From Wildfires

    When the first warning comes of an approaching wildfire, you need to take action immediately. Once evacuation is recommended, however, you should leave as soon as possible. Before that recommendation comes, you should have some time to prepare to defend your home.

    Defend your home - Getaway carFirst, get your getaway car ready. Back your car into your garage or open space pointing in the direction of your way out for an easy escape. Gather together your emergency gear and everything you will need. Then, once you’re all ready to evacuate but the recommendation for such an action has not arrived, there are some things you can do to defend your home from the fire.

    Remember: if you ever feel scared or in danger in any way, then leave! The most important thing is your safety.

    Disclaimers aside, let’s get down to business (to defeat the…fires).

    When you defend your home from invading fires, I’m not talking about being dressed as Gandalf standing between the fire and your house shouting, “You shall not pass!” at the approaching Balrog – er, brushfire.

    Defend your home like Gandalf defends Frodo "Flame of Udȗn!"

    Instead, you’re going to need to act as swift as a coursing river in order to prepare in time. Fires move fast, and can change direction just as quickly.

    Anyway, it’s a well-known fact that water beats fire. A government document entitled Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages outlines some important steps to take. All of these suggestions assume you actually have the time to take to carry these out. If you don’t have the time, then just get out of there.

    Close all your doors, windows, and vents! This will keep your home draft-free, thus preventing embers and smoke from finding open areas to infiltrate your home.

    Defend your home by following these steps Woodside Fire Protection District

    Create a defensible space around your house. Try and clear out as much dead debris as you can within 30 feet of your home. These dry, dead plants are fire fodder, so without them lying around, the fire won’t have as much fuel, thus slowing it down. Check your rain gutters, too. Clean them out and get rid of all those dead leaves, pine needles, and anything else that could feed the fire.

    Another step to take to defend your home is to place your sprinklers up to 50 feet away from your house. This will increase water levels of the nearby greenery, and as we have already mentioned, water beats fire. Of course, this won’t necessarily stop the fire altogether, but it can help slow it down and reduce its heat. If you have water hoses and sprinklers to spare, you might also consider putting a sprinkler on the roof of your house. Dousing your house with water will at least give it some sort of fire deterrent.

    Keep an eye on the things around your house, such as lawn furniture or potted plants. If they can burn, make sure they are far from your home. And definitely move any propane tanks near your home to a safer place.

    These are just a few things to keep in mind in the event of a wildfire. Knowing how to defend your home against a raging fire doesn’t have to be as mysterious as the dark side of the moon. Your work must be swift as a coursing river, otherwise the fire could catch up to you before you know it. But above all, if you ever, for any reason, feel scared or in danger, then get out. It’s not worth risking your personal safety – or that of your family – for your belongings.

     

    Have you ever had to defend your home from a fire? What did you do? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Additional Reading, Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: firefighter, home, defence, flame of Udun, Gandalf, wildfire

  • Washington Wildfire Hits Way Too Close to Home

    Wenatchee, WA. is a city of about 35,000 that’s nicknamed the Apple Capital of the World. It sits between the Columbia Rivera and the Okanongan-Wenatchee National Forest in central Washington.

    Washington Wildfire - NBC News NBC News

    On June 28, a fire started about 7 miles northwest of Wenatchee. Fed by 100-plus degree temperatures and high wind, the fire exploded through bone-dry sagebrush and grass. Within half a day the Washington wildfire grew to almost 4 ½ square miles and blasted into a development on the northwest edge of Wenatchee. Twenty-nine homes burned to the ground that night, according to an official fire report.

    “The wind changed, and the fire came so quick, that people … had five minutes to get out of the house,” said Karen LuBean, who witnessed the devastation from her home in East Wenatchee across the Columbia River. “Some people were only able to get their purse. They grabbed a few legal documents and stuff like that.”

    A Red Cross shelter at a high school reported 155 people checked in Sunday night.

    Embers from the fire jumped at least five blocks to a recycling center and buildings that contained what Karen believed was ammonia and other chemicals. They caught fire, and the resulting fumes forced people indoors for a half-mile radius with instructions to turn off air conditioners and cover doors and windows. A full four miles away, the air stung Karen’s eyes. Three businesses were destroyed.

    Washington Wildfire Firefighter - ABC News ABC News

    At the height of the fire, 336 firefighters were attacking the blaze. Five days later, the fire was 98 percent contained and almost all fire crews were home. Three people were treated for minor injuries, according to the official fire report.

    Karen’s family is well prepared for emergencies. They have 72-hour kits and important documents scanned and stored on the computer. They have an evacuation plan. Even so, she feels she could be more prepared.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests five Ps of wildfire evacuation preparation in its booklet “How to Prepare for a Wildfire.” They are People, Prescriptions, Papers, Personal Needs and Priceless Items.

     

    People

    The best way to protect family members and pets is create an emergency plan. This plan should include evacuation maps and instructions for young children, carriers for pets, plans for people with special needs and utility shut-off directions, according to FEMA’s ready.gov.

    Karen said her family has an evacuation plan but wants to revisit it.

    “We’ve gone over our escape routes in the past but it’s been awhile,” she said.

     

    Prescriptions

    Karen must take thyroid medication, so she said prescription preparedness is “number one.”

    This includes having a supply of medication and copies of prescriptions. It also includes backup medical equipment batteries, glasses and hearing aids, according to FEMA.

     

    Papers

    Karen says most of her legal documents are scanned.

    “If we could just grab the computer and go, we’d be fine.”

    FEMA recommends storing important documents on a cloud-based service or an external hard drive or thumb drive in a fireproof, waterproof box.

    Important documents include government-issued ID papers, prescriptions or warranties for medical equipment, insurance paperwork, rental or mortgage agreements and photos or movies of each room in the house. FEMA provides an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help identify records to keep safe. It is available at www.ready.gov/financialpreparedness.

    Karen has adult children living all over the country so after she scanned copies of important papers like birth and marriage certificates, she sent copies to everyone.

     

    Personal Needs

    FEMA says personal needs include clothes, food, water, first aid kit, cash, phones and chargers, and items for children and people with disabilities or other needs.

    Karen already has food, water, clothes, first aid supplies and two types of radios. She is adding masks.

    “I think I need to revisit my 72-hour pack,” Karen said.

    She especially wants to replace food.

    “Unless they’re MREs, they’re not that tasty after a year or two,” she joked.

     

    Priceless Items

    FEMA defines priceless items as pictures, irreplaceable mementos and other valuables. Karen includes photos and family history in her list.

    Washington Wildfire Destruction Reuters

    Last week, Karen got a pointed reminder of the importance of being prepared. The Washington wildfire in Wenatchee exploded from nothing to devastation in 12 hours. Karen said her dentist’s home was barely spared but the home of another acquaintance was destroyed.

    “For a whole city block on both sides, almost every house was just burned to a crisp,” she said.

     

    - Melissa

     

    How do you prepare for wildfires? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Washington, Wenatchee, wildfire, Prepare

  • How to Not Burn Down America With Fireworks

    “It's going to be pretty tender fire conditions out there.”

    This fireworks season, that’s the fear not just for this Bozeman, MT fire chief, but for many more officials throughout the country. In many states, extended periods of heat and drought have made conditions very unfavorable for Fourth of July fireworks. With fireworks, there’s always a risk of starting a fire. Because of the heat and lack of moisture, that threat is even worse.

    Family FireworksAlthough you may have a tradition of having your own firework show, that may not be the best idea this year. According to one fire prevention specialist, “the best way to avoid the risk of starting a wildfire this holiday weekend is to attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.”

    I know, I know. Where’s the fun in that, right? Well, part of the fun could come in not burning down your entire state (or at least your neighborhood). Even fireworks that you might think are safe can be a huge danger to the dry grass and trees. For example, did you know that sparklers can burn at 2,000°F? That’s hot enough to melt gold! So uh…try and keep those away from dry tinder, OK? Thanks.

    Fireworks BanIn order to prevent wide-spread devastation, many counties – and even a few states – have imposed a ban on fireworks. Some Oregon towns have decided to do away with their municipality firework shows altogether. If that thought saddens you (which it very well could), you can take solace in the fact that by foregoing such activities, you are saying “Thanks, America” by not burning it up. And America thanks you, too. If you don’t think that’s a very good reason, then let’s go back to Oregon for a moment.

    The spokesman for Portland Fire & Rescue gives a very compelling reason for these bans. In the case of Oregon, “on the weekend before the Fourth of July last year, Portland firefighters battled three fires. This past weekend, the count was 80.”

    Yeah…that’s quite a jump in number there. So instead of adding to that number, be prepared to cut back on your firework usage this Fourth of July. Even though it may seem like this Independence Day restricts your independence in the use of explosives, it’s for a good cause. However, if you are able to still use fireworks (hooray!), please take precautions to avoid setting fire to your city.

    Some good rules to follow are:

    • Always soak your fireworks before tossing them in the trash
    • Store exhausted fireworks in a bucket of water
    • Keep a source of water nearby (see above)
    • Don’t point or aim fireworks at homes
    • Keep fireworks away from grass, brush, leaves, and anything else that could potentially catch fire (such as your home – see above)

    Another good rule of thumb is to always use common sense. Before you start lighting off fireworks, ask yourself, “Is there anything within close proximity that could potentially start a fire if this firework goes off in an unexpected direction?”.

    Because that happens, too.

    Fireworks SafetyAnd while you’re at it, practice firework safety for yourself, too. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of things blowing up and making loud noises and spewing out pretty colors and stuff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do that and still be safe.

    I say this because my sister had the unfortunate experience of having a firework fly into her face. Fortunately, it was a small one and it didn’t explode on impact. Unfortunately, it still exploded just after it ricocheted off, damaging her teeth and burning her face somewhat. That was about seven years ago, and after getting braces (for the second time in her life), she’s back to normal.

    Do you think she expected that to ever happen? I doubt it. And yet it did. So while you’re keeping the grass and trees safe, keep yourselves safe as well.

    And on that fun note, I hope you all have a wonderfully exciting Fourth of July and enjoy the festivities wherever you are! Go out and have a blast (literally)!

     

    'Murica & Fireworks

     

    How do you celebrate the Fourth of July? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: wildfires, fireworks, 4th of July, Independance Day, America

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