The recent fires around Arizona may leave some of you wondering if something like that could happen here. The answer is yes. Hopefully not to the scale that we have just witnessed but it would still be a disaster if it was your house or your neighborhood.
Fire is a natural and necessary part of the pine/chaparral woodland ecotype we live in. It always has been and always will be. Historically low intensity fires would help keep forest fuels in balance. With settlement of the area and various human interactions in the past 100 years or so, this balance has changed. Much of the forest we enjoy so much has become overstocked with vegetation; that condition coupled with extended drought and climate change makes for a situation where fires can quickly reach high intensity and become out of control infernos. We could play the blame game for who is at fault for the deterioration of forest health but at the end of the day that it is not very productive. What is important is how we now manage the risk and how we manage our coexistence with forest lands to become a fire-adapted community.
Fortunately there are a number of things we can do to help manage this risk and better prepare ourselves to deal with the impact of a fire.
Recently, the International Association of Fire Chiefs launched a program called “Ready, Set, Go.” This program leverages programs such as firewise and other preparedness and awareness activities to increase both public and first responder safety. The Ready, Set, Go program allows home owners to create their own action plan of getting their property and families prepared long before a fire or other disaster scenario is upon them.
Ready — Take responsibility and prepare long before the threat of a wildfire is at hand so your home is ready in case of a fire. Create defensible space by clearing brush, vegetative litter and weeds away from your home. Use fire-resistant landscaping and harden your home with fire-safe construction measures. Assemble emergency supplies in a safe spot and have a list of personal items you need for extended leave. Make sure all members of your household are on the same page, make a communications and evacuation plan. Include provisions for pets.
Set — If a fire is burning near you, stay informed of fire information by listening to the news, checking Web sites and other sources of fire information.
Go — Leave early! Act immediately if directed to evacuate. Following your action plan allows you to be prepared at this step. Your preparation allows firefighters to concentrate their efforts on containing the fire and protecting your home.
For more information on emergency preparedness, firewise or the Ready, Set, Go programs, contact your local fire department or county emergency management agency. Remember, a little preparation goes a long way in keeping your home and family safe.
Thank you and stay safe.