Things You Need to Know about Wildfires
What Is A Wildfire?
What Causes Wildfires and Are They Natural or Man-Made?
- Burn hotter
- Occur more frequently
- Burn at a lower temperature
- Occur sporadically (every few years) rather than yearly.
How Does a Wildfire Start?
- Unsecured chains from trailers (striking the asphalt and causing hot sparks)
- Discarded cigarettes, fireworks, matches
- Unmonitored campfires
- Intentional ignition
When and Where Do Wildfires Occur?
Can You Stop a Wildfire?
- Wildland fire engines. (trucks with water and hoses)
- Air resources such as helicopters and planes that drop fire-retardant in front of or on the blaze to slow the spread.
- On-the-ground crews. These firefighters engage the fire by digging firebreaks, utilizing hoses, or clearing the brush to slow the spread.
- A Backburn is a fire that is lit to burn off any of the fuel ahead of the larger blaze. While lighting a fire to stop a fire may seem counterintuitive, when the larger fire moves forward, there’s nothing left to burn.
What Are The Largest Bushfires In The World?
How Can We Prevent Wildfires?
- Prescribed burns. Frequent, intentional and managed fires mimic the low-intensity burns that are natural in various forest ecosystems.
- Keeping invasive species from overtaking native populations. Cheat grass, for example, is an invasive species in the Western United States that is much more flammable than native grasses.
- Educating the general public about properly extinguishing any ignition sources.
What Should You Do If You Live In a Wildfire-Prone Area?
- Have a general wildfire emergency plan and supplies
- Remove trees and debris from the immediate area around your home (about 30 feet)
- Keep grass mowed and trimmed.
- Do not store combustible materials unprotected, make sure they are contained and separate from the house.
Consult government resources on what you can do to prepare.
(Click here for the official U.S. government website on Wildfire Preparedness https://www.ready.gov/wildfires)
What To Prepare Before a Wildfire Occurs?
- Have emergency supplies prepared. Wildfires can move extremely quickly. While advanced warning may be possible, emergency supplies are essential to grab and go at a moment’s notice
- Have an emergency plan in place. This includes supplies, evacuation routes, and emergency contacts. A plan for evacuating for a wildfire can be similar to that of preparing for a hurricane. (Read about hurricane preparedness here)
Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
Face masks or respirators for heavy smoke
Map marked with at least two evacuation routes including meet-up locations if separated
Prescriptions or special medications such as high cholesterol medication, anti-seizure prescriptions, insulin, or thyroid medication.
Change of clothing
Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
First aid kit including cold compresses and burn cream
Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
Jackery power station to charge phones, radio and some other necessary home appliances
Copies of important documents (house deeds, photos, birth certificates, passports, etc.)
What To Do During The Wildfire Season?
In most cases, fires are monitored close enough to give residents some warning before evacuation. During fire season, be sure to monitor official local news and stay diligent if nearby grasslands or forests are dry. Weather apps often publish ‘red flag warnings’ which indicates when fire conditions are ideal (low humidity, no rain, high temperature and winds).
If all goes well, you may only have to deal with some heavy smoke blowing from a nearby fire, and that would be the worst of it. However, if necessary, evacuation orders will be broadcast across websites, local radio/television stations, and in some cases, phones. If they announce evacuation orders, listen and obey them. They are for your safety; no belongings are worth your life.
Grab your pre-positioned supplies and leave. Have items to be self-sufficient for a few days, along with your Jackery system. Do not try to return before the official announcement; you could put yourself and others in danger.
Continue to monitor the news for when it is safe to return home. After a wildfire has either burned itself out or been contained, local news sources or officials will inform you when it is safe to return home.
Contact your neighbors to make sure they weathered the disaster safely. Communities that help each other are more resilient against potential disasters.