Be Prepared for a Man-Made or Natural Emergency
HELP PREVENT A WILDFIRE
FROM DESTROYING YOUR HOME
The Wildfire Threat
The threat of wildfire is a major concern to more and more homeowners as construction of homes moves into the Wildland Urban Interface. Periods of drought are frightening times for residents of suburban and rural areas across the country, including the Northwest, the West, and the Rocky Mountain states.
For those of us who live near natural areas of brush or forest, the dry seasons are especially hazardous. Experts advise us to mitigate the fire danger before construction begins and to plan firewise landscapes of widely spaced plantings (at least a 30-foot radius of "Green Zone" around the house), keeping dry combustible plant debris cleaned up, and maintaining low groundcovers and lawns that are well watered. This advance preparation will often determine if your home is "defensible" from the firefighters' perspective.
Most rural fire departments are comprised of volunteer firefighters who are not generally present at the fire stations, and therefore response times can be long. Volunteers must reach the fire stations after being notified, start the fire vehicles, and drive to the fire scene. The fire scene may be quite far from the responding station. Often there may be fires in multiple locations around your area or state.
Water supplies and firefighting equipment are limited, and often the only initial water supply is what the fire trucks themselves carry. Water shuttles of water tenders often must be established and coordinated, as there may be no fire hydrants available to supply water. Narrow, steep roads and driveways may limit or even prevent access by emergency equipment. Bridges may have weight limitations that prevent large trucks and tankers from reaching the fire.
When wildfire does strike, it can occur with little warning and spread quickly. Fire crews and equipment can be overwhelmed by the task of fighting a rapidly advancing wildfire. There may simply not be enough personnel and equipment to defend every home. But you, the homeowner, can make a difference!
Create a "Defensible Space" around your house.
Do these things well before a fire is approaching.
- Remove standing dead trees.
- Dispose of slash / debris.
- Remove dead limbs, leaves, pine needles and other litter from the forest floor.
- Stack firewood away from your home - at least 30 feet.
- Maintain an irrigated greenbelt or remove all vegitation fuels for 30 feet around your house, decks, and any ornamental trees.
- Prune branches up 10 feet above the ground.
- Clean up leaves and pine needles from roof and gutters.
- Reduce density of surrounding forest (15' crown separations minimum).
- Mow and remove any dried grasses or weeds from the defensible space.
- Remove any trees growing through the porch.
- Remove branches overhanging chimney and roof.
- Stack firewood uphill or on a contour away from the home.
- Use non-combustible construction and roof materials. REPLACE shake roofs.
- Place shutters, fire curtains or heavy drapes on windows.
- Place screens on foundation and eave vents.
- Enclose sides of stilt foundations and decks.
- Use a chimney screen or spark arrester.
- Clear vegetation around fire hydrants, cisterns, propane tanks, etc.
- Make sure an outdoor water supply is available, with hose, nozzle and pump.
- Make sure fire tools, ladder and fire extinguishers are available.
- Post address signs that are clearly visible from the street or road.
- Make sure the driveway is wide enough for fire trucks and equipment.
- Post load limits on bridges.
- Install and test smoke detectors.
- Practice a family fire drill and evacuation plan well in advance. Look at all possible escape routes / roads and be aware emergency vehicles will be coming towards the fire you're going away from!
- If a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your radio / TV for updated reports and evacuation information. Keep your phone line open in case emergency evacuation information is called to your phone using "reverse 911."
- Confine pets to one room, and make plans to take care of them in the event of evacuation. Use portable dog/cat kennels when possible.
- It's best to evacuate horses and other large animals early, as horse / stock trailers will hamper arriving emergency vehicles.
- Arrange for temporary housing with a friend or relative whose home is outside the threatened area. Leave a note in a prominent place in your home that says where and how you can be contacted. Make sure all family members are aware of the relocation site as part of your pre-planning.
- If your home is threatened by wildfire, you will be contacted and advised by law enforcement officers to evacuate. If you are not contacted, or you decide to stay and help defend your home, evacuate pets and any family members not needed to protect your home.
- Remove important documents, mementos, photos, etc., and put them in your vehicle. Have this gathered together / boxed well ahead of time.
- When evacuating, wear protective clothing: sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, a hat, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
- Choose a route away from the fire if possible. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Don't panic; drive safely.
- Have a disaster supply kit prepared (and take it with you) containing at least:
- Drinking water and emergency food rations (3 days supply X number of people in your family or group, and don't forget your pets). Some additional water is advisable.
- Blanket or sleeping bag for each person, children's games, playing cards.
- First aid kit that includes any prescription medications, extra eyeglasses, and other specialty items for infants.
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio and flashlight, and extra batteries for them.
- Extra set of car keys and credit cards, and cash or traveler's checks.
Defending Your Home
Whether you choose to stay to defend your home or to evacuate, complete as many of the following preparations as possible. But, before you start, pick a "TRIGGER POINT." If the fire gets to that stage or point, you will immediately leave without hesitation.
Do not jeopardize your life. No material item is worth a life. Remember: "It's just stuff!"
- Wear a hat or hard hat, long pants and long sleeves, and gloves. Avoid synthetic fabrics, as they may melt to your skin.
- Remove combustible materials from around all structures.
- Close or cover outside vents and shutters.
- Position garden hoses so they reach the entire house and roof. Have the hoses charged, with an adjustable nozzle that are turned off. If you have a sprinkler system for the exterior of your house, place the sprinklers into position. Charge sprinklers as burning embers begin falling ahead of advancing fire. Remember, however, most wells and water supplies have a limited capacity and take time to recover. Use your water wisely.
- Place large, full water containers around the house. Soak burlap bags or small rugs, as these can be useful in extinguishing small spot fires before they get going.
- Place a ladder against the roof of the house on the opposite side of the approaching wildfire. Place a garden hose near the ladder, prepared as described previously, so you can extinguish any burning embers that fall on your roof.
- Place portable pumps near available water supplies, such as pools, hot tubs, creeks, etc.
- If you have fire-stopping gel or foam, apply to structure well ahead of the advancing fire. "Rewetting" may be necessary just before you leave. Gel / water mixture is extremely slippery so do not go on the roof.
- Close all windows, doors, and interior doors. Do not lock them.
- Turn on a light in each room, and all outside lights, and leave them on.
- Shut off the gas at your outside meter or at your propane tank.
- Close venetian blinds, heavy drapes, or fire-resistant window coverings.
- Move furniture into the center of the house, away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Park your vehicle in the garage, facing out, until you're ready to leave. Close the windows, but do not lock the doors. Leave the keys in the ignition.
- Close the garage door, but leave it unlocked, and disconnect any opener.
CHOOSE A "TRIGGER POINT." IF THE FIRE GETS TO THAT STAGE OR POINT, YOU WILL IMMEDIATELY LEAVE WITHOUT HESITATION!!!
GO to Survival Supplies
BACK to Survive The Next Disaster home page