Wildfires Cause Emergency Evacuations
July 9, 2012 by Peggy Layton
The seasons and the weather are changing from region to region. The World Meteorological Organization reported that 2001-2011 was the hottest decade on record. The hot, dry conditions are creating a tinderbox that is ideal for out-of-control wildfires.
This is what happened to a small town near my home in South Central Utah. Thieves stole the copper grounding wire from a power substation, setting off a chain of events that turned deadly. Dry lightning hit the substation. Because the copper grounding wire was gone, the transformer short-circuited, causing it to spark, which set the dry grass on fire. The extremely hot, dry weather coupled with high winds took the fire up over the mountainous ridges and out of control. Left in its wake were entire subdivisions reduced to ashes. There were only minutes to get out as the inferno engulfed trailers, outbuildings, vehicles, SUVs, permanent residences and beautiful vacation homes.
The wildfires that recently ravaged Colorado left piles of rubble and ashes where beautiful homes stood before the flames engulfed the region, leaving more than 30,000 people homeless and destroying more than 300 homes. Some of the lucky people had less than 30 minutes to grab their most valuable possessions and flee the inferno. Others got out with only the clothes on their backs.
What would you do if you were told to evacuate your home now?
Towns were evacuated. Roads were closed. Power was shut off. Soon after the towns were evacuated they heard loud booms as home propane tanks exploded one by one. People were freaking out as they drove through smoke, pitch black with ash and slowly following everyone else in vehicles, trailers and cattle trucks.
Volunteers went house to house and let people know that they needed to get out now. One 72-year-old resident drove through about 50 feet of flames to evacuate. He said the fire was so hot that he could feel it on his face inside his car. It was something out of a horror movie. One person either did not get the word or refused to leave his home and he was found dead the next day. Many ranchers were airlifted out by helicopter while they watched their livestock succumb to the fire. Neighbors helped each other evacuate their sheep, horses and cattle. Many people tried to get their vehicles, trailers and SUVs out. They were just lucky to grab what they could and go. They felt extremely lucky to have made it out alive.
The Red Cross set up an evacuation site for refugees fleeing their homes. Many families were camping out, watching the fire and waiting to get the word to be able to get into their property. The interviews on the news were very sad because people did not have time to get their valuables, they just had to evacuate.
In this case, 72-hour backpacks or grab-and-go packs were absolutely critical. Things the residents needed the most were: money, face masks, a flashlight, a change of clothing, a sleeping bag, personal-hygiene items, medications, a cellphone, food and water.
The purpose of the 72-hour backpack is to help you survive an emergency that could take up to three days to get help. Evaluate the backpack to make sure you have everything you need for basic survival. If you have children, pack one for them also and keep it in a vehicle or near the front entrance to your house so you can quickly grab it and go. Backpacks should be kept up to date and accessable. Extra gasoline is important to grab if you are a long way from a gas station.
The best flashlight I have found so far is the Hybrid Solar Flashlight. Less than 9 inches long and weighing only 7.5 ounces, this solar flashlight will provide 120 lumens of power on a full charge and will do so for six hours. It is waterproof, it floats, and it is incredibly durable. This flashlight can be recharged using any light source (the sun is best) but ambient or artificial light works too. There’s no need to ever buy or store batteries.
I keep ION (stabilized oxygen) water treatment in my 72-hour pack just in case there is no potable water available. ION kills bacteria on contact from any water source.
Fire Protection And Prevention Tips
The Governor of Utah speaks out on fire prevention. He is urging people to use common sense and much caution while target shooting, lighting off fireworks and building campfires. Making sure that the campfires are built in approved parks and areas designated for fires. The State of Utah has restricted the use of any open flame as well as all fireworks for the entire summer. Colorado and many other States are following suit.
Many fire departments dedicate weeks to fire prevention and protection because it is so important to be aware of the things we can do to prevent fires and protect our loved ones from fire. Thousands of fires occur each year that could be prevented.
The most important fire prevention and fire protection tips are:
- Never allow children to play with matches, lighters or any other fire igniting apparatus. Keep these things in places where children cannot reach them, such as the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet.
- Place lit candles in areas where, if an accident happens, like the glass jar bursts, the fire will not be able to spread. Candles are the leading cause of accidental house fires.
- Check your fire extinguishers. It is important to know if your fire extinguishers are out of code. They may not work in a time when you need them.
- Test your doors and windows. It is important to know if they open easily, and whether your windows open wide or tall enough. If you have second-story windows, you will need emergency ladders in the room that can be hung out the window so you can climb down them.
- Make sure your smoke detectors work. Test them monthly and change the batteries right away if they do not work. This tip could help protect you and your loved ones by alerting you if there is smoke, and this can lead to protecting your home from a spreading fire.
- Have the electrical system of your house tested yearly; the chance of a fire happening because of an electrical system short is much greater in an older house.
- Always remember to turn off the stove when you are done cooking. Food left cooking on the stove can burn and cause a fire.
- Keep all space heaters away from flammable materials.
To purchase ION or a packed 72-hour-backpack, click here. To learn how to put together your own 72-hour backpack, buy my book Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook. There is a whole chapter that will walk you through packing your backpack step-by-step.