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Any uncontrolled fire is a threat, but a wildfire can be particularly dangerous because they are:
- Unpredictable. Wildfires can be caused by everything from lightning to an errant cigarette to a natural spark.
- Sheer speed. Once sparked, wildfires can zoom across a large area, often in unpredictable patterns.
- Sheer intensity. Wildfires can consume entire homes, subdivisions, and towns.
Note: This is a great checklist to test your resiliency efforts. Dampening the threat presented by something fast, big, and harmful.
Note 2: There are some ecological benefits to certain plants and ecosystems, but wildfire management and controlled burns should be left to the experts, but from a personal resiliency perspective, a wildfire is a threat that can end lives, destroy property, and wipe out life savings.
Wildfire Contributing Factors
Risk factors that contribute to sparking a wildfire you should watch during any sustained dry period include:
- Relative humidity. The lower it gets, the more potential there is for a fire to break out.
- High heat. By itself, not a problem, but high temperature dry out vegetation.
- Large areas of dried or dead vegetation. Simply, these are natural tinderboxes.
What You Need To Research
- Certain environments are more conducive to wildfires, so learn about the history of wildfires in your area. This does not have to be recent.
- As always, know your road network. In particular, know which roads would pose a hazard (in that they have dense vegetation), which could be used for bringing in large fire fighting equipment, and have a evacuation route and a backup.
What To Do If A Wildfire Threatens Your Home Now
- Be aware. Keep the TV on. Watch Twitter. Stay in touch with your neighbors, colleagues, and friends. Listen to a battery powered radio when the power goes out. Have a water reserve for when they turn it off.
- Be home. Work from home if you can. It makes it easier to react if you need to.
- Have a Bug Out Bag. Remember, the assumption in a sufficiently dense/urban/concrete area is not necessarily societal collapse, but rather that you lose your home and neighborhood. A knife won't help as much as insurance paperwork will.
- If the order to evacuate is given, leave immediately. Evacuation centers are not necessarily nice places. Stay with friends/family outside the danger-zone if you can. If the environment has not completely deteriorated, take all your cars.
If You Have Sufficient Time and Warning
- Clear the area around your home. Work in a 20 foot radius. Remove leaves, brush, dead limbs. Use a saw to cut tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground. Cut down any shrubs that may act as ladders for fire to climb. Same with vines. Remove anything combustible from under balconies, decks, porches, etc. Note: This is hard in a suburban context, but retain perspective.
- If possible, expand this radius as far out as you can. Think 100 feet. Trim grass to 2 inches at most. Remove any wood fencing if you need to. Move propane tanks as far away as possible. Same with grills.
- Place tight wire mesh over vents and chimneys to prevent embers from entering your home. Close fireplaces.
- Check fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.
- Inspect any water stores you may have, such as pools or rain barrels. Fill unless water restrictions prevent such behavior. Do not inadvertently affect relief operations.
- Prepare for both electricity and water service disruption. Both will occur if a fire breaks out nearby. Remain calm and informed through a battery powered radio.