"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
June 03, 2015
Fire at your Backdoor, Part 2
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

Now that you have prepared your home, family and neighborhood for a fire, what do you do when that awful day comes and there is a fire at your back door?

When Wildfire Threatens

If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials immediately. While you wait for the order to evacuate:

  • Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut the doors, but do not lock them, and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition or make sure it is in your pocket at all times. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers, just in case the electricity goes out.

  • Gather your family members if they are at other locations or make arrangements for them to remain where they are if they are in a safe area.

  • Gather pets into one room, making them easy to find when it is time to leave.

  • Evacuate large animals, such as horses, to a safe location.

  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend's home outside the threatened area.

  • Notify your out-of-state emergency contact of your plans and give them the phone number and address of the place you will evacuate to.

  • Load your 72-hour kits and important family possessions in your car.

  • Place pet supplies and leashes in the car.

  • Place maps in the car with at least two evacuation routes clearly marked.

  • Change into protective clothing including long pants, long-sleeved shirt, heavy socks and sturdy shoes.

  • Have hand towels or bandanas ready for each member of the family.

  • Contact your neighbors to make sure they have heard the warnings.

  • Close all windows and vents.

  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding-glass doors.

  • Move all flammable patio furniture indoors.

  • Turn on a light in each room and also your outdoor lights, to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.

If Advised to Evacuate, Do It Immediately

  • Wet the towels or bandanas you have set aside and take them with you. Holding these over your nose will help you breathe in a smoky environment.

  • Lock your home.

  • Call you neighbors as you are leaving. Warn them if you are aware of an escape route that is blocked.

  • Call family members who were staying at other homes to inform them where you are going.

  • Call your out-of-state contacts to inform them you are heading for the safe location you have given them earlier.

  • When you have reached your destination gather all your family members to that location.

Survival in a Vehicle

This is very dangerous and should only be done in an extreme emergency, but you can survive a firestorm if you stay in your car. Out-running a firestorm on foot is almost always impossible.

  • Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.

  • If you are forced to stop, park away from trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Roll up windows and close air vents.

  • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.

  • Breathe through a cloth.

  • Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.

  • Stay in the car! Do not run! Be prepared for the temperature to dramatically increase and for air currents, caused by the fire, to rock the car. Gas tanks can explode but rarely do unless they are punctured.

If You are Trapped at Home

Stay calm. As the fire front approaches, go inside the house. You can survive a fast moving wildfire, but this should always be a last resort and never your first choice!

  • Close all windows and exterior doors

  • Close all interior doors.

  • Go to the center of the house.

  • Stuff towels or blankets under the door to help prevent smoke from entering the room.

  • Lie on the floor and cover up with a blanket. A wool blanket is best as it will take longer to ignite.

  • Breathe through a wet cloth.

What to Do After a Wildfire

  • Check the roof immediately. Put out any fires, sparks or embers.

  • Check the attic for hidden burning or smoldering sparks.

  • Put out any small remaining brush fires.

  • The water you put into your pool, hot tub, or water storage barrels can be siphoned to provide water if the electricity is off and your well isn’t working or if community water supplies are interrupted. You can also connect a hose to the outlet on your water heater for added water supply.

  • Rake any areas that appear to be smoldering and extinguish any embers you find.

  • Check the inside of your home for any embers that may have entered.

  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a fire watch by walking around your home inside and out, checking for any new hot spots.

It is so important to research the risk of wildfire in the area you live. We have lived in our community for 20 years and have not seen a wildfire here, except for grass fires on neighboring farms that were quickly put out by our fire department. No headlines here.

But those who have lived in our town longer than us remember a fire that swept through the river bottom areas that adjoin our town (less than a mile from our neighborhood), which created real fear and panic that it would spread to neighborhoods and burn the city.

So, even if there is not a recent memory of such events, that does not mean the danger is diminished, but may in fact mean the risk has quietly grown worse with years of new undergrowth in wilderness areas, while residential areas have encroached deeper into that wilderness.

The time to clear a fire break between our home and the path of a wildfire is now. Preparing home and family must also be done now, and not later. At its root, this takes spiritual as well intellectual commitment. As an American evangelist once said: “Heaven is a prepared place, for a prepared people.”

Like judgment day, a wildfire emergency offers no postponements, and no deferments. When smoke and flames approach, it is too late to do any more than implement the preparations we have already put in place, keep a cool head, and trust in the Lord.

Questions or suggestions for future articles? Contact Carolyn at: Carolyn@TotallyReady.com. Add non-food items to your preparedness plan today, for tips visit https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady


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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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