Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Considering Forest Fires



      Forest fires and wildfires have very much been in the US news lately.  Colorado has had the worst year on record from a standpoint of both acreage destroyed by fire and the number of homes destroyed this year as well.   Many other western states have had almost equally serious wildfires with both loss of life and properties also. Utah, New Mexico, Idaho and even Florida have known very bad weeks for wildfires lately.  When you consider that in drought, which is commonplace in many places, a major wildfire can be started by anything from lightning to a dropped cigarette, or even a spark from mowing grass, this is a major hazard for many of us.  Everyone is vulnerable to fire.
            All families need to take reasonable precautions.  In housefires, we need to have a smoke detector on each floor, with a functioning battery we change twice yearly. The same is true of a basement, whether finished or not.   We need to have a document bag in a locked place, which we can grab and go.  We should have a good evacuation kit in or near our cars, should we ever simply need to leave.   We need to teach our children that in the event of a fire, that we all leave the property and collect at a central location outside the home.  If we can grab someone on the way out, then do so, but the primary responsibility of a child is simply to get out, not play fireman.  When everyone is out, use a cordless phone to call 911 and report the fire.  Use a cell if that's what you have.  Once we are out of the house, we should not return, as many die each year looking for someone who got out, but was not in one pre-arranged spot, so that parents could easily see them. This is important and your fire plan at home needs to be reviewed and rehearsed with children annually.
            A wildfire plays a little differently.  You should call 9-11, grab your document bag, place kids in the car, and grab your animals on the way out of the property.  You should advance plan this scenario also. This has happened to a lot of families in the western US lately, and now is the time to back up all your family pictures, your documents, and valuables and either sent them to a safe deposit box somewhere, or send them to a trusted friend on disc.

           Everyone's plan for wildfire is going to be a little different, but I am going to share ours, so that you can do the mental work of modifying the plan for yourself as we go.
            We live on a farm which is cleared close to all of our buildings, our animals and the inner farm itself, but it is surrounded on all four sides by nature deciduous forest, and just a few pines.  All buildings were built a considerable distance from the forest itself, because we feared wildfire.

These pictures are the work of   You can click on their blog at the end of this one, to the right, marked as  Virginia Wildfire Information and Prevention

  Our farm house and multiple outbuildings have metal steel roofing, which not only lasts a long time, but is somewhat resistant to fire.  We are blessed with very high water pressure here.  We have significant and expenses hoses on each building, with fireman hose styled spigots to allow maximum water to the base of a fire, if one develops here.  In the past, we have used these spigots to extinguish small fires which have occurred during droughts here, either due to lightning, fireworks, or once due to a spark thrown by a grinder someone here was using.  We do not have quick access to firetrucks, and there are no fire hydrants for many miles.  The local volunteer fire department has a pumper truck which is capable of bringing water from ponds to us, or sucking water from a pond on our property to use to douse a fire here.   We always have our flammables and ammo locked up with fire-resistant containers.   We also have a fire plan which is regularly updated, includes evacuation, and has basic documents and photographs seeded elsewhere.  We also have the requisite evacuations bags.  Forest fire or wildfire is likely the largest hazard in the location in which we live, and we plan accordingly.  We also have vehicles that would permit the evacuation of all of the animals from the farm, although we would need advance warning of about a day. We also would plan to heavily hose down all the buildings and the grass around them, in advance of leaving, if time permitted.  This is actually possible, because when the George Washington National Forest had a serious wildfire, we were ready to go, if just for the smoke, and we had plenty of time to pre-emptively evacuate.  Whether this is an issue for you where you are or not, take a moment to plan your internal fire strategy, and teach this to your family, and also your wildfire plan with evacuation, should this apply in any way to your location.


stephen said...

Place smoke detectors at least one foot away from corners.
utah fire systems

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Stephen, Most of my detectors were wired in by our builder. I have a few supplemental ones, as well as some in outbuildings. Thanks for the tip.