If you live in a arid climate, you’re probably wondering when the next wildfire is going to start. It’s a favorite theme here in our home state, Colorado. We’ve had plenty of wildfires in past years. And now the first barn-and-house-burner, the Black Forest fire (between Monument and Colorado Springs on the I-25 corridor), has made its acrid mark on the land.
The wildfires affect people for dozens of miles all around, even when they’re not being evacuated. Smoke chokes the air, clouds the sky, and makes us pray for rain. Don’t wait for the first plume of smoke to act. There are things you should be doing now to keep fire at bay, just in case.
Ways To Keep Fire At Bay
Decide What’s Important
Laptops, legal papers and family photos often top the list, but are often joined by paintings and small family heirlooms. (Don’t forget copies of your homeowner’s/renter’s and auto policies — plus the phone number of your agent.) Can you pack these things in less than an hour – or even 15 minutes? That’s sometimes all the time you’ll get to evacuate.
Videotape What Isn’t
Take a long extended walk through your place, focusing on furniture, appliances and other large items you couldn’t take with. (Rent or borrow the camera, if you don’t have one. It will be worth it.) Now store that tape in:
A Fireproof, Secure Place
We keep a safe downstairs with paperwork and other valuables. It’s guaranteed to last through the hottest temperatures. (The folks kept their valuables in the freezer, reasoning that the ice within would preserve it somewhat. And it did.)
Keep A Bag Packed
Don’t forget a few changes of clothing and toiletries, as well as your prescriptions. Photocopies of your passport, and other i.d., are also good to keep here; they’ll come in handy if you lose the originals, or have them stolen. (People who travel frequently will find a packed bag helpful if they must leave sometimes at short notice.)
Where Will Your Pets Go?
Decide ahead of time. Would a friend be willing to take care of them? (Maybe they’d take you in, too.) Keep a small bag of food by the carrier – enough to keep them fed until you can get more.
Make It Hard For The Fire To Progress
Your home should have fire-retardant shingles, to begin with. (It gives you a nice discount on your insurance policy, as well.) Keep bushes, trees and other greenery mowed and clipped well away from the house. Do you have a hose that stretches as far as the roof? How about a steady water source that can be put into use quickly?
Things Aren’t As Important As People. They Never Were.
Do not put yourself in danger by going back. Many of Colorado’s wildfire fatalities happened because people went back — or didn’t leave when they were first warned. If you do lose your home and possessions, it’s just…stuff.