Be Fire Ready: An Overview of Wildfire Preparedness and Knowledge

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We’re all aware of the growing hazard wildfires pose, and the old saying is true, “the best defense is a good offense.” When you prepare proactively for wildfire, you can help protect the lives and property for yourself, family and community.

Living in wildfire-prone regions comes with responsibilities, including creating comprehensive preparedness plans and understanding fundamental fire theory.

This article will take you through a generalized wildfire preparedness plan, from creating a defensible space around your property to the factors influencing fire behavior.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of preparing for a wildfire. The key is to break it down step-by-step, and focus on a few critical tasks each week or month. With diligence over time, you can build up your wildfire action plan and defenses. 

Prepare for the Worst

In a worst case scenario, you may need to evacuate quickly. Make sure to designate primary and secondary evacuation routes away from your home.

  • Print out and laminate a map with your evacuation routes highlighted. You may not be able to rely on cell service during an emergency.
  • Drive your evacuation route before an emergency. Evacuations are stressful enough, make sure you’re familiar with your evacuation routes beforehand. 
  • Map out safety zones along the way in case the fire shifts direction unexpectedly.
  • Designate an emergency meeting location away from the fire zone where separated family or neighbors can reunite.

Prepare an evacuation “go” bag

This kit should contain essential supplies that can sustain you for at least 72 hours.

The basics include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medications
  • Important Documents
  • Family Heirlooms such as photos
  • Cash
  • ID’s
  • Personal protection equipment (like masks)

Remember to also plan for any pets, children or elderly who depend on you. 

In addition to the evacuation bag, you might also gather a “line gear” bag with additional supplies like shovels, rakes, headlamps and drinking water that could aid in actively defending your home if safe to do so.

Prep your vehicles with evacuation supplies and keep gas tanks full just in case.

Consider whether you plan to evacuate or shelter in place during a wildfire. Determine if you have backup generators, sufficient water storage, and supplies to withstand potential power outages.

Run through different scenarios – what would you do if you had 1 minute, 30 minutes, or 24 hours notice to evacuate? Make sure to also work on plans to help others and coordinate with neighbors and friends.

Creating a Defensible Space

One of the best ways to safeguard homes is to establish and maintain “defensible space” through vegetation management. This involves clearing dry grasses, brush, trees and other fuels within a certain radius of structures. 

This defensible zone reduces the chance of fire directly reaching your home and provides firefighters with a safe space to combat the flames.

Start close to your property and work your way out, breaking it down into the 1 ft, 5 ft, 10 ft, 50 ft, and 100 ft zones. Ensure clear ingress and egress paths and consider installing sprinkler systems. 

Focus on eliminating horizontal continuity where fire could spread unimpeded. remove any dead or overhanging branches. Prune lower tree limbs 6-10 feet from the ground.

Remove or relocate combustible materials that are close to your home. This might include firewood or your propane tank.

Understanding Basic Fire Theory 

Understanding basic fire theory will help you prepare and adapt to wildfire situations. Fire needs fuel, air or wind, and heat or ignition to survive. Each of these factors can be managed to some extent. Pay attention to daily wind changes during fire season, and practice safe use of equipment, particularly motorized tools of all kinds

Topography also affects fire behavior, as does the type and availability of fuel, including grass, shrubs, timber, and human-caused slash. Fuel characteristics, such as volume, arrangement, and moisture content, also play definitive roles. 

Weather is another major factor influencing fire behavior. Monitor weather patterns regularly, taking serious note of relative humidity, precipitation, atmospheric stability, and wind, all of which can exacerbate wildfire conditions.

Being Ready for Incident Response

In the event of a wildfire, your location and the incident location both matter. Be aware of potential hazards like power lines, moving vehicles, or trees that might impede your evacuation. Figure out the safest escape routes and safety zones nearby. Once you understand the situation, contact emergency services and be ready with any tools that can aid your escape.

Forming or Joining Neighborhood Groups

Engaging in local community networks can greatly enhance overall preparedness. It benefits everyone to share insight on preparedness plans, escape routes, safety zones, wind patterns, terrain, tools, and experience. Consider liaising with larger disaster response and/or community organizations. They might provide access to a larger inventory of resources. Organizations include:

  • Disaster Response Team in Talent

Wrapping Up

Proper wildfire preparedness isn’t a task; it’s a lifestyle change that could save your life and those around you.

After reading this article, assess your plans and make improvements. Whether it’s setting up sprinkler systems, organizing evacuation bag essentials, or securing a generator, every small action brings you closer to being thoroughly prepared. 

I hope these tips help provide a solid foundation for neighborhoods and individuals to come together, fill any gaps in preparedness, and collaborate on wildfire response plans.

Small actions undertaken consistently, as well as open communication, coordination and accountability within the community are key to wildfire resistance and life safety during emergency incidents.

The next steps are to focus on your top one or two priorities this week to continue building wildfire readiness.

About the Author

For over 15 years, I've helped landowners reach their forest and tree goals with an emphasis on safety, customer satisfaction and sustainable forest management.

If you have forestry or tree care needs, I'd love to hear from you. Click here to say hello.

- Bradford Goshorn
Bear Creek Forest Management

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