The outbreak of several wildfires across the nation serves to remind us that the threat of wildfires to our homes and families is real. Today in Utah, 1,000 homes are being evacuated because of a wildfire approaching several Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain neighborhoods. The High Park fire currently burning in Colorado has already consumed more than 190 homes, and is the most destructive in the state's history.
In place of this week's Baby Steps, take a few minutes today to read through and implement these suggestions. Prepare your family and home in case of a wildfire in your area. Some basic knowledge, advance planning, and protection of buildings can decrease the likelihood and the resulting impact of a wildland fire.
BEFORE A FIRELearn and teach safe fire practices.
- Adhere to all government recommendations and regulations regarding fire safety, including the use of firearms, fireworks, and campfires in wilderness, recreation, and populated areas.
- Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes.
- Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
- Never leave a fire--even a cigarette--burning unattended.
- Obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.
- Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures.
- Create a safety zone to separate the home from combustible plants and vegetation.
- Stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames.
- Swimming pools and patios can be a safety zone.
- Install electrical lines underground, if possible. Keep all tree and shrub limbs trimmed so they don't come in contact with the wires.
- Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet. Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood and moss.
- Remove all dead limbs, needles, and debris from rain gutters.
- Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
- Keep chimney clean.
- Avoid open burning completely, and especially during dry season.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
- Plan several routes out in case the fire blocks your primary escape route.
- Be sure all family members know the evacuation plan in case you become separated.
- Establish a pre-determined meeting place so your family will know where to go in the event you aren't all together at the time--or if you aren't able to exit together.
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual
- Emergency food and water
- Nonelectric can opener
- Essential medicines
- Cash and credit cards
- Sturdy shoes
- Coats and blankets, in case of cold weather
DURING A FIRETurn on a battery-operated radio to get the latest emergency information. Remove combustible items from around the house.
- Lawn and poolside furniture
- Tarp coverings
- Close all doors and windows inside your home to prevent draft.
- Close gas valves and turn off all pilot lights.
- Turn on a light in each room for visibility in heavy smoke.
- Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
- If hoses and adequate water are available, leave sprinklers on roofs and on anything else that might be damaged by fire.
AFTER A FIRE
Take care when re-entering a burned wildland area. Hot spots can flare up without warning. Check the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Check the attic for hidden burning sparks. For several hours afterward, re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the home.
If you are overtaken by fire outdoors, you can't outrun it. Crouch in a pond or river. Cover head and upper body with wet clothing. If water is not around, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat and cover your body with wet clothing or soil.
Breathe the air close to the ground through a wet cloth to avoid scorching lungs or inhaling smoke.
Wildfires spread quickly and often begin unnoticed. You can reduce your risk by preparing now, before the wildfire strikes. Remember that protecting your family and your home is your responsibility; by following suggested guidelines you can greatly reduce the devastation that can occur from wildland fires.