Even if the Rodeo-Chediski fire does not roar through this neck of the Arizona forest, the Rim country will not be out of the woods. Every person, every monsoon lightning bolt, every metallic spark from every automobile will be capable of bringing disaster to our front door.
And there is nothing we can do but hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
The American Red Cross, which has had more experience in disaster preparation than any other single organization in the country, offers the following tips to prepare yourself, your family and your home for wildfire and wildfire evacuation.
When wildfire threatens
If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to KMOG radio on your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately
The sudden order to evacuate leaves many homeowners in a quandary as to which of their cherished possessions to load into the car. Consider keeping some of them permanently in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe to reduce the number of things to take away during evacuation.
The confusion around fires can be terrifying, and a list prepared ahead of time for quick consultation assists in gathering up these essential items with the least amount of stress.
Legal documents: These include birth certificates, deeds, stock certificates and other essential paperwork. Discuss with your accountant and/or attorney about which ones are most important. This also applies to your fire insurance papers, too, because you will need them if your home or property is damaged.
Photos: These cannot be replaced at any cost and are often the most sadly mourned when lost in a house fire.
Mementos: Heirlooms, art work and other keepsakes. Jewelry and other valuables. Gold, precious stones, coins, fine art, family silver, antiques etc.
Computer Files: If you have an office at home or store vital records and data in your computer, be sure to keep all your files backed up on floppies. There may not be room to take the computer with you, but a pocketful of floppy disks ensures you preserve your data.
Wear protective clothing: sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Take your Disaster Supplies Kit (see below).
Tell someone when you left and where you are going. Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
If you're sure you have time, take these steps to protect your home
Close windows, vents, doors, Venetian blinds or noncombustible window coverings, and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
Shut off gas at the meter. Turn off pilot lights.
Open fireplace damper.
Close fireplace screens.
Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
Turn off propane tanks.
Place combustible patio furniture inside.
Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
Set up the portable gasoline-powered pump.
Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Wet the roof.
Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
Gather fire tools.
Disaster Supplies Kit
When wildfire threatens, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, dufflebags, or trash containers. Include:
A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
One change of clothing and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
A first-aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks.
Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
An extra pair of eyeglasses.
Keep important family documents in a waterproof container.
Create a family disaster plan. Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster. Pick two meeting places: A place a safe distance from your home in case of a home fire, and a place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.
Choose an out-of-state friend as a "check-in contact" for everyone to call.
Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at main switches.
Even veteran firefighters are often surprised by how quickly a wildfire can spread, particularly when winds and/or slopes are involved.
The October 1991 Oakland Hills fire destroyed 790 homes in the first hour. The whole fire only lasted six hours: 26 dead, 2,750 homes destroyed.
The proximity of a structure to native vegetation is a direct measure of the probability of its destruction by wildfire sooner or later.
Flammable roofs and inadequate brush clearance are by far the most significant contributors to the hazard and their elimination is the most cost-effective prescription available.
The Solution: Participate in your own rescue. Don't expect someone else to risk their life in an attempt to protect your property if you have done nothing to make it easy for them to do so.
Firefighters are taught to recognize the winners from the losers. They can only protect so many homes, and they will choose those that have the best chance.