It’s June, and while it means summer break for many, it is also a dreadful period, especially for those living in the western states, which are more prone to drought. These regions that tend to get super dry during the summer are sadly affected by wildfires that have become more devastating through the years. Wildfires don’t disrupt only the channels of utilities, transportation, and communication for residents of affected areas; they also disrupt the access of wildlife to a safe habitat.
As we know it, wildfires are often a natural and inevitable phenomenon. But, they’re usually initiated by human activity, unattended campfires, fresh cigarette butts, and intentional fire-starting, just to name a few examples. Global warming is an overarching problem, and wildfires are just one of its manifestations. The more greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere, the hotter our surroundings become, and the drier it gets during summer. This results in combustible materials found in nature, such as leaves and grass, which, when combined with oxygen, are more susceptible to starting a fire.
Wildfires are worsening at alarming rates, recently proving to be a great challenge that local firefighters alone cannot mitigate. For the past 20 years, about 7 million acres of land are left charred to the roots and inhabitable after wildfire seasons. And with droughts only becoming drier year by year, longer as to last even up to seven months, and more widespread as to span 75% of the West recently, we are literally in for a scorching hot summer 2021.
Aside from the destruction of farmlands, wildfires imply huge economic losses. And, although the predictability and traceability of a fire’s spark prove to be difficult, states are ever involved in planning measures including forest thinning and subsidizing firefighting agencies to prevent fires of massive scale within their jurisdiction. Still, we can never be so sure of how things will pan out this wildfire season. If you’re one of those concerned about possibly being affected by a wildfire, here are things you have to know and prepare to keep you and your family away from harm and your property from any severe damage:
Keep a safe distance, a minimum of 30 feet, between your house and any combustible vegetation like trees. Trees should be cleared of dry branches, and these branches should also be kept, about eight feet, away from the ground. If you can, relocate or trim your plants and bushes so that they are apart from each other, or they don’t touch live electrical cabling and don’t burn contagiously in the worst case.
Before building your house somewhere with drier summers, you should have made it a point to procure the best fire-resistant materials and that the house is fully equipped with smoke sensors and sprinklers inside-out. You can retrofit your existing structure to sustain the hottest environmental conditions anyway, as needed. To further minimize the risk of your house catching fire, rid your roof, gutters, and chimney of any debris from trees like twigs, leaves, or pine needles. Keep combustible chemicals in fire-proof containers and firewood, likewise, at a safe distance from your house.
Just like in any calamity, you should have an emergency or go-bag, complete with a first-aid kit, flashlights, portable power sources, and other essentials, and strategically placed for easy grabbing when evacuation from the place is necessary. Involve all household members in keeping everyone safe by regularly studying fire safety, the state’s evacuation guide, and first aid. You might also need the assistance of a personal injury attorney, especially if the fire is proven to have been caused by somebody else’s negligence. Everyone should also agree on routes for escape and get used to contact each other, among other protocols to keep in mind.
If fires have already scattered in your locality, stay updated on the news and prepare for a possible evacuation. Remove the curtains, keep the upholstered couches from the window, and turn off the air-conditioning units. Load buckets with water aside from preparing water hoses. Everyone should be within sight, including pets, and so must stay within a well-lit space in the house.
If the wildfire is already within proximity, immediately call 911, close the windows, and block other air entries using duct tape. Turn off your propane, turn on the roof sprinklers, prop up a ladder by the house’s roof for the firefighters’ easy access, and keep the car parked in a clear driveway. Evacuate after being advised by the local government and making sure you’ve noted road closures.
After the Fire
Confirm with local fire officers if it’s already safe to return to your house. Be highly cautious upon returning to your house, as fire can rekindle even after being extinguished. Check every nook and cranny of your house for any embers, which you need to immediately pour water on. Do this for the next several days and call 911 for any hazard detected and, hopefully, this marks the end of your ordeal.