The Waldo Canyon Fire has been declared the worst in Colorado state history. With flames raging out of control, at the time of this writing, the fire has destroyed 346 homes in Colorado Springs, killed at least one person and burned an estimated 18,500 acres of land. Meanwhile, the High Park Fire in Fort Collins has charred countless pine forests. Nevertheless, (as hard to believe as this is,) these blazes are small compared to the storied history of U.S. fires which have scorched millions of acres in the 19thand 20th Centuries:
- In 1825, when the Great Miramichi Fire broke out, it burned 3 million acres in Maine and New Brunswick and killed at least 160 people.
- Two decades later, Oregon’s Great Fire of 1845 blazed for weeks and downed 1.5 million acres of timber.
- The Great Fire of 1910 occurred in Idaho and Montana, as a result of severe winds, small fires and dry forests combining to unleash fiery havoc over a two-day period. The wildfire destroyed some 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) and took the lives of 86 people. So great was its destruction—in loss of land and human life—that it prompted Congress to begin setting aside money to help the National Forest Service suppress fires.
- The recent California Wildfires in 2003 and 2007 claimed 1,500 lives and 1.3 million acres. Nine people died as a direct result of the fires and 85 others were injured, including at least 61 firefighters. The fires were so pervasive, they were visible from space.
Wildfires break out for a myriad of reasons…arson, overgrown brush, careless campers, welders’ and machinery sparks, fireworks, tossed lit cigarettes, spilled chemicals, improper trash burning, to name a few. Unfortunately, wildfires are incredibly easy to start and extremely difficult to stop.
While we at RJWestmore, Inc. usually concentrate both of our blogs to preparing for disasters and managing emergencies in urban settings and high rise buildings, where most of our clients do business, we consider it worthwhile to advise our members and friends about fire safety away from home and office. After all; our mission is to “Save Lives through Training.” And our motto is: “BE SAFE.” We want you to be safe at home, work or play!
There are lots of great free resources to help citizens and their pets prepare for wildfires. Among available materials is a downloadable PDF booklet produced by FEMA called “Wildfires: Are you prepared?” The booklet reminds us to take steps because, intentionally or accidentally, most wildfires are started by people, which is why Smokey the Bear’s mantra is: “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” I’ve always been a fan of Smokey…even before he became a celebrity.
Here is an overview of how you can practice wildfire safety:
- Contact local authorities to obtain information about fire laws in your region.
- Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark driveway entrances with your street address.
- Report hazardous conditions that could lead to wildfire.
- Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
- Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it. And while you’re at it, I’d suggest you install your own fire hydrant. Your dog will thank you for it.
- Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of your dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, doghouses, or trim with fire-retardant chemicals.
- Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your structure. And you might want to let man’s best friend mark the territory. Just an idea.
- Plan your water needs. For example, is there an outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant? If not, make sure the garden hose is long enough to reach any area of the property. This is critical for dog bowls, too!
- If you’re sure you have time, take steps to protect your home.
- If advised to evacuate, DO SO IMMEDIATELY!
- Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
- Plan several escape routes away from your home—by car, by foot or by paw.
- Run fire drills. (Fire drills are not just for schools.)
- For comprehensive planning, take advantage of free information offered by Firewise.org, which is a service of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
- Share fire safety information with your neighbors.
- This is by no means a comprehensive list. For more about wildfire safety and preparation, check out resources provided by NFPA, FEMA, Ready.Gov, the American Red Cross, the CDC and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS).
When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.