Wildfire season awareness

  • Published
  • By Robert Kaschak
  • 452nd MSG/CEX

We are already in the middle of summer, and, in typical California fashion, several major fires have rocked the local area. While wildfires are a way of life in the southwest, many unique conditions combine to make this year especially tenuous. We had an abundance of rain this past winter which has led to some dense vegetation growth. And now that we are in the " heat of the season", all that growth is super dry. Add to that the rise in temps and low humidity, and you now have the recipe for major fire events. Let's not forget to factor in weather (lightning) and the human element both of which exacerbate an already serious fire potential. Although we cannot always prevent or predict these events, it is incumbent on each and every one of us to be aware, stay vigilant and be proactive. No doubt you have seen the news updates on local fires, hear the causes and, for that moment, contemplate your own action in this circumstance. However, life goes on and you put that to the back of your mind as you tend to the daily activities that comprise your day.  Californians enjoy the sunshine, warmth, topography and climate stableness for the most part. But, the downside is the reality those conditions can bring- dense dry brush, heat, navigation challenges and lack of resources necessary to mitigate the event. In past articles, we have recommended actions to take to reduce the threat of fire. For the moment, I want to focus on encouraging vigilance.


Education is paramount for a successful plan and positive response. There are so many places you can go that provide information, ideas and even materials to help keep you fire safe. Obviously, the internet is an easy place to start. There are websites and suggestions galore. Know something about the area where you live and any unique requirements. For example, is there easy access to your home for responders?  Dead end street? Roads passable? Elevation an issue? Animals a threat?? It may be a good time to clean out some of those areas in the garage or storage shed. Reach out to the local fire department if you have concerns about where you live. Having a plan is crucial for the safety and well-being of you and your family. It bears repeating some of the suggestions that FEMA recommends that were listed in a previous article. While not all inclusive, these tips will be instrumental in developing your family plan.


1) Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.


2) Wear protective clothing when outside - sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.


3) Gather fire tools such as a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel.


4) Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors, pet doors, etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.


5) Close all doors inside the house to prevent draft. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.


6) Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.


7) Connect garden hoses to outdoor water faucet and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.


8) Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on and dowsing these structures as long as possible.


9) If you have gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.


10) Place a ladder against the house in clear view.


11) Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out. Close all garage doors.


12) Place valuable papers, mementos and anything "you can't live without" inside the car in the garage, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car.


13) Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.


14) Move flammable furniture into the center of the residence away from the windows and sliding-glass doors.


15) Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.


Above are but a few of the measures you can take to reduce your exposure. The time to address fire issues is now.  We are deep into the summer and have many "hot and dry" days ahead. Developing a plan and taking some preventative measures will promote peace of mind and increase preparedness to execute a successful response. Of course, no one can predict when and where the fires will occur; however, it is a fairly safe bet that fire season in California is far from over. Don't be a statistic. Pass the word to your neighbors and friends. Maintaining awareness, having a plan and being proactive will most certainly increase your odds of enjoying a safe summer. Wildfires will always be a threat to life and property in the southwest, but active involvement by the masses can certainly reduce some of the catastrophic consequences of these events. Let's all work together to minimize the threat to our family, homes, property and our way of life.