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  • 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!

  • 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.



    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.



    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.



    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!

  • What Should You Do During a Wildfire?

    “It was so frightening that I couldn’t even cry.”

    Santa Clarita Fire (AP) Associated Press

    That was one woman’s reaction to the brushfire in Santa Clarita, California earlier this week. As of yesterday afternoon, the fire was 95% contained. Firefighters are currently working to extinguish the remainder of the flames.

    We’re not even into July, and already there have been 2,486 wildfires in California in this year. The report from NBC Los Angeles says that number is “up from 1,654 the state has averaged over the last five years.” So far 8,600 acres have burned.

    Wildfires can happen anywhere. And, more often than not (try 90% more often), these fires are started by humans. Nature plays her part in starting fires, too, such as lightning strikes or super-duper hot weather. Whether it’s intentional (ie. arson), from lack of caution and fire safety (such as while out camping), humans are a big contributor to the roughly 1.2 million acres burned each year in the United States. To put that into contrast, 1.2 million acres burning up is like the entire state of Delaware being torched. Sure, it’s not a huge state, but with a population nearing 1 million people, that's a lot of livelihood. Southern California alone has over 22 million people, and its dry, hot climate makes it extremely prone to wildfires.

    Wildfires are fast. They can travel at speeds of 14 miles an hour (without wind), engulfing everything in its path. 14 miles an hour might not seem fast when you’re driving in your car, but when you're running...that's quite a pace to keep up. 14 miles an hour just got very, very tiring. That’s one reason wildfires are so dangerous. They can catch up to you without much warning.

    How are you supposed to prepare for a wildfire? First off, you should plan ahead so you know what to do when one does come. If you don’t, you could end up like this family:



    As seen in this video, not planning can result in a very scary, dangerous situation. So please, plan ahead!

    You should also do things aside from just putting your plan on paper. Make sure the surrounding area of your home is free of debris and dead grass, trees, and anything else that can be used as fire fodder. Having well-watered grass can slow the approach of fire, too.

    Fire Approaching House (NY Times) New York Times

    Once the fire gets too close and evacuation warnings are issued, strongly consider leaving your home. As per your plan you just made in regards to wildfires, grab your most important documents and belongings, hop in your car, and get out of there. Your own safety is far more important than your possessions.

    That being said, you may have the desire to stick around and defend your home. You can do that, but beware: it was very dangerous, especially if you don’t know exactly what you need to do. Perhaps I’ll write up a “How to Defend Your Home from Invading Forest Fires” blog in the near future, but until you know what to do, it’s better to be safe.

    Now, before we get too carried away in our loathing of these wildfires, there is a bit more information you might want to be made aware of. Although wildfires can be quite dangerous and destructive to us humans, they actually play a very important role in nature. National Geographic teaches us that

    “[Wildfires] return nutrients to the soil by burning dead or decaying matter. They also act as a disinfectant, removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from a forest ecosystem. And by burning through thick canopies and brushy undergrowth, wildfires allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, enabling a new generation of seedlings to grow.”

    That’s not to say we should be starting fires all over the place. Au contraire, we should do all we can to avoid igniting wildfires in the first place. After all, Smokey the Bear believes that “only you can prevent wildfires.” And, while natural fires benefit nature, man-made fires do not.


    Have you been threatened by a wildfire? What did you do to prepare?

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