Not a matter of chance
After reading our title, are you thinking: “It’s spring! This isn’t wildfire season. Why is this newsletter about wildfires?” Well, we are discussing wildfires for a couple of reasons. First, as has recently been evident in Colorado, wildfires can happen any time of year. Second, spring is generally a time for yard cleanup and adding new plants. Wildfire prevention can guide you in these tasks and help protect your home and family.
Fire experts have long recognized three basic components of wildfires: weather, fuel, and terrain. Together, these three items affect the likelihood of a fire starting, how fast it will move, and how difficult it will be to control.
Dry, hot, windy weather increases the likelihood of a major fire. In a wildfire, fuels are usually vegetation (trees, shrubs, brush and grass), homes and other buildings. Of all the types of terrains, the steepness of the grade is the most influential on fire behavior. The steeper the slope, the faster the fire will spread.
How to Better Protect Your Home and Family from a Wildfire
1. Creating a defensible space will help protect your property against the spread of wildfire. Use the three “Rs” of defensible space to evaluate your home’s landscaping and surroundings.
Removal – eliminate entire plants, particularly trees and shrubs, from your property. Example: cutting down a dead tree or cutting out a highly flammable shrub.
Reduction – remove plant parts, such as branches or leaves. Example: pruning dead wood from a shrub; removing low branches; mowing dried grass.
Replacement – substitute less flammable plants for more hazardous vegetation. Example: removing a dense stand of shrubs and replacing with an irrigated, well-maintained flower bed or fire resistant plants.
2. Install a non-combustible roof that meets the classification requirements of your community. Check with your building department or fire marshal for more information.
3. Use non-combustible materials for the exterior surfaces of your home. Does your home have a flammable deck, fence or staircase attached to it? If these items catch on fire, they can act as a wick, bringing fire to your home.
4. If you can, build your home away from ridge tops, canyons, and areas between high points on a ridge.
Evacuate when Instructed to Do So by Emergency Personnel
During a wildfire, evacuations are put in place to save lives. Property can be replaced, but your life cannot. Wildfire fatalities most often occur when people wait to leave their homes. Leave early enough to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion.
Preferably, don’t wait to be told by authorities to leave. In an intense wildfire, they may not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to evacuate, don’t hesitate. Remember, by evacuating early, you give your family the best chance of survival.
What to Do if You Are Trapped and Cannot Evacuate
When Trapped in Your Home:
1. Stay inside your home. It is safer than being outside or in a vehicle.
2. Close all exterior doors including the garage door after putting your car inside.
3. Call 911 and inform the dispatcher that you cannot evacuate.
4. Fill all sinks and bathtubs with water.
5. Close all interior doors, leaving them unlocked.
6. Shelter in rooms opposite the approaching fire.
7. Stay away from perimeter walls.
8. Stay as calm as you can and keep your family together.
9. Fire fronts can take 5 to 15 minutes or longer to pass.
10. As hot as it gets inside your home, it is 4 to 5 times hotter outside.
When Trapped in Your Car:
1. Try to drive to an area clear of vegetation, away from wires and trees.
2. If on a winding road, try to park where the road curves out, not in.
3. Close all windows and keep the doors unlocked.
4. Turn on the air conditioner, keeping it in the “re-circulation” or “max” mode.
5. Cover yourself with a wool or cotton blanket or natural fiber clothing. No synthetic fabrics; they melt!
6. Attempt to call 911 and inform the dispatcher of your location.
7. Wait for the front to pass. Keep in mind that there will probably be smoke in your car.
8. If you see flames in your vehicle after the fire front passes, wrap yourself in clothing/blankets and exit.
9. Do not attempt to out run a wildfire.
Staying with your property should be considered only as a last resort. Each year, professionally trained fire fighters are killed while fighting wildfires. Make educated decisions on when to evacuate. Don’t put your life or the lives of your loved ones at risk.
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