Wildfires - YOU Can Prevent Them!
AN AVERAGE OF 5 MILLION ACRES BURNS every year in the United States, causing millions of dollars in damage. Once a fire begins, it can spread at a rate of up to 14.29 miles per hour, consuming everything in its path. As a fire spreads over brush and trees, it may take on a life of its own -- finding ways to keep itself alive, even spawning smaller fires by throwing embers miles away.
Sometimes, fires occur naturally, ignited by heat from the sun or a lightning strike. However, the majority of wildfires are the result of human carelessness.
Common causes for wildfires include:
- Discarding lit cigarettes
- Improperly burning debris
- Playing with matches or fireworks
- Prescribed fires
EPFR urges residents to use extreme caution with campfires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources, and encourages residents living on wooded lots and wildland/urban interface areas to stay informed of local conditions.
Preventing & Preparing for Wildfire
Now is the time to create defensible perimeters by clearing flammable debris away from homes and structures. Revisiting fire escapes and evacuation plans are a must, and should include current phone numbers for emergency service providers. Make sure property entrances are clearly posted, with adequate emergency vehicle turnaround space.
Take these specific actions long before an evacuation is necessary.
- Clear any flammable materials from around the home.
- Construct roofs and exterior walls from non-combustible or fire resistant material such as slate, tile, sheet iron, aluminum, brick or stone.
- Treat wood siding, cedar shingles, exterior wood paneling and other highly combustible materials with fire retardant chemicals.
- Clean roof surfaces and gutters free of pine needles, leaves, and branches regularly.
- Space landscape plants to limit fire from spreading to surrounding vegetation or structures.
- Maintain fuel breaks around all structures
- Store gasoline only in approved containers, and well away from occupied buildings.
- Store firewood and other combustibles away from structures.
- Keep firefighting tools (such as ladders, shovels, rakes and water buckets) handy, and water hoses connected.
- House numbers and all street signs should be clear of overgrowth and always be visible.
- Clear roads and driveways of vegetation overgrowth so fire vehicles have room to maneuver.
- Place a lawn sprinkler on the roof, which can be turned on when evacuating to wet the roof.
It is also smart to keep important personal documents quickly available should you need to evacuate. Consider collecting your driver’s license, passport and other identification, birth and marriage certificates, Social Security card, insurance policies, tax records, wills, deed or lease and stocks and bonds. Also, know where your main turn-off switches are for electricity, water and gas.
Be Campfire Safe
Although some wildfires are the result of lightning, outdoor burning is the leading human cause of wildfires - and ARE preventable. Campfires and camping go hand-in-hand. But using caution and common sense will help keep your experience in the great outdoors safe and wildfire free.
Here's a few campfire safety tips to consider when planning your next adventure:
- Know before you go. Find out fire restrictions where you will camp. Call 1-800-323-BURN. Click here to view current fire danger status in by county in Washington State.
- Get landowner's permission (as per WAC 332-24-205). Recreational fires rae not allowed on State lands except in approved designated campgrounds.
- Keep your fire small (max 3 ft. wide x 2 ft. high).
- Build your fire a minimum of 10 feet away from things like tents, overhanging branches, steep slopes, dry grass, or logs.
- Put your fire DEAD OUT when not in attendance.
- Use water to drown the fire and use a shovel to stir the water and coals to cool it down. Repeat as needed.
IF IT'S TOO HOT TO TOUCH, IT'S TOO HOT TO LEAVE!
Take the "Get Your Smokey On" Wildfire Pledge!
Prepare An Evacuation Kit
Another important step is preparing an evacuation kit. Items should be put in a container that can be easily loaded into a vehicle for a quick departure. Items to include:
- Battery-powered radio with additional batteries
- First aid kit
- Medicines, prescriptions and eyeglasses
- Water (at least one gallon per person and enough for three days for each person in the household)
- Change of clothing
- Sleeping bags and pillows
- Cash and credit cards
Discuss with family members how to contact one another if a wildfire comes near when family members are separated. Plan evacuation routes and identify relatives or friends outside the immediate area that can be contacted. Finally, make sure your pets have collars and identification tags and take your pets with you if you need to evacuate. While some shelters won’t accept pets, an increasing number of communities are organizing pet shelters when large evacuations are necessary. Check with your local Humane Society, animal shelter or veterinarian.