YOSEMITE — We have good news and bad news. The bad news is that fire season has not been cancelled due to the coronavirus. The good news is that the virus will likely result in there being far fewer outdoor activities and gatherings this summer, which should lead to fewer forest fires. That’s what we’re hoping, anyway.
So what can you do right now to prepare for fire season? Here are ten ways to get started.
1. Get your escape route and evacuation plan in place now. Make sure everybody in the household knows what to do and where to go in case of a fast-moving forest fire. It’s also a good idea to regularly practice your evacuation plan with your family. At least twice a year is recommended. Regular practice will help you find and fix any problems. Also, make sure everyone in the house knows how to call 911 and report emergencies.
2. Your evacuation plan needs to include your pets and/or livestock, as well. Now would be a good time to dig out their pet carriers/cages and give them a good cleaning. Make sure you keep them someplace where they are readily accessible. Avoid burying them in closets or sticking them up in garage rafters. Also, have emergency food and medicine ready to go, and if your animals will need to be boarded, find out available options and locations now.
3. Mow the lawn and clear dead grass, weeds, and any other vegetation away from your house by at least 100 feet. Don’t forget the area around your propane tank. Keep trees spaced far enough apart that they won’t spread burning embers. Also, try to prevent smaller plants and trees from growing underneath larger trees.
4. Get up on your roof and clean out those gutters. They’re probably full of pine needles, acorns, twigs, leaves, pine cones, bark, and all sorts of other flammable stuff. While you’re up there, try to get rid of any branches that are touching or hanging directly over the roof. Also, if you see any roof damage, such as missing or damaged tiles or shingles, now would be a great time to fix it.
5. Move flammable items away from your home and other structures by at least 5-10 feet. This includes things like firewood, compost heaps, cardboard boxes, trash, etc. Keep vegetation down to a well-manicured minimum out to about 30 feet. Keep all trees and tree limbs at least ten feet from the chimney.
6. Clear the space under your deck, porch, or balcony of any flammable material. Also, make sure to enclose any openings to prevent burning embers from being blown in.
7. If someone in your household has a heart or lung condition, including asthma, and will be affected by heavy smoke, start planning now. Make sure all medications and prescriptions are current and up-to-date. It would also be a great time to buy a portable, high-quality, air cleaner/purifier. Look for one with a HEPA filter.
8. Have an emergency kit/bugout bag ready to go. Keep it light enough to easily carry. Everybody’s bugout bag will be different, but think about including such items as a first aid kit, water, protein bars, flashlight with extra batteries, matches and/or lighter, maps, can opener, toiletries including feminine supplies. If you’re a smoker, you might want to throw in a couple packs of cigarettes.
9. Secure your eaves and vent openings. Burning embers have a bad habit of entering houses through open vents and starting fires from within. Secure your vents with proper screens or vent closures.
10. In case of an emergency, remember the “Ten Ps of Preparedness”
2. Pets (don’t forget their medicine)
3. Papers (all your important documents)
4. Phone Numbers (everyone in the house should get a copy of this phone list)
5. Prescriptions (includes eyeglasses, vitamins, and any other over the counter medications)
6. Pictures (includes family heirlooms)
7. Personal Computers (don’t forget the chargers)
8. Phones (don’t forget the chargers)
9. Presidents (cash, lots of cash)
10. Plastic (credit/debit cards)