Wildfires are becoming more and more prevalent in the United States. Historic droughts in the west have caused them to be an ever present threat throughout the year and there is less and less of a "season". To find out how common wildfires are in your area, consult the FEMA Disaster Declaration Visualizer to see if your area is prone to wildfire. Here are some tips on how to manage your wildfire risk.
We break this down into the three "M"s. Mitigate, Monitor, Move
- Build your own fire break (aka "Defensible Space") around your home. Is there anything flammable within 30 feet of your home? If so, move it. Shrubs and small bushes can be replanted into mobile planters that can moved if fire threatens. Wood piles and compost should be kept outside of your 30 foot defensible space. Keep leaves and any other dry matter tidied up as much as possible.
- Are your gutters clean? Hot embers can land in your gutters and send a string of fire around your home.
- Ensure that your outdoor hoses can reach the full 360 degree perimeter of your home. Sometimes you may have the need to put out hot spots and embers even if you don't evacuate. If you have a swimming pool, consider getting a small pump so that you can access this large reservoir of water to keep your property damp.
- Get yourself a quality emergency kit. Whether it's an Echo-Sigma Emergency System or a home built kit that you spent weeks or months researching and piecing together, have one.
- Keep your eyes open. If you see a plume of smoke in the distance, call 9-1-1. Don't assume that someone else has seen it and reported it.
- Keep your ears open. You should have a solid emergency radio, keep it on and listen for information from local authorities. Midland Radio has an outstanding line of emergency radios that provide excellent capabilities at affordable prices. Fires can move unpredictably and a docile slow burn can quickly take a turn for the worse and force you from your home in minutes.
- Keep your nose... errr... open. Sometimes you'll smell something before you see something obvious like a column of smoke.
- If there's even a chance that you may be evacuated, start getting your stuff together. Emergency kits, child particulars and precious personal effects should all get moved to your vehicle or at least by the front door.
- Listen to your radio but also keep your ears open to the street, fire crews may drive through your neighborhood with a bullhorn telling people to get out before you hear anything on the radio. There may not be time for a knock on the door.
- When the evacuation order come down, get out. If you wait too long, smoke could make a safe evacuation impossible and you'll ultimately hinder the fire fighting efforts if they have to stop and assist you. At this point the best you can do is not get in the way.
Wildfires can be scary but with enough preparation and forethought, you can help not only save your own home, but those of your neighbors by leaving the fire one less target for crews to protect. Stay safe out there.