Wildfire a good reminder of important preparation steps | PostIndependent.com

Wildfire a good reminder of important preparation steps

Niki Turner
Guest Column

Come here, you gotta see this,” my son said as he burst through the front door and headed to the back porch.

I followed him outside. A few miles to the northwest, a thick plume of smoke curled upward, the beginnings of what would become the Ward Gulch Fire.

As the fire roared to life, I called my husband and asked him to come home, instructed my teenage and adult children to pack their “bug-out” bags, and circled my house, gathering paperwork, prescriptions, clothing, phones and laptops, chargers, valuables, etc. We loaded them into suitcases for easy transport. We located collars and leashes for all four dogs, and big dog crates for my 17 chickens.

Getting ready to evacuate has a strange way of putting your stuff in perspective. The big-screen TV suddenly pales in comparison to the vintage trunk overflowing with family photos. The rule-of-thumb for evacuating on short notice is known as the five “P’s”: people, pets, paperwork, prescriptions and photos. I had the first four covered. The photos would be a problem, I realized.

When we’d done what we could, we settled down to watch and wait while the flames continued to grow and thick clouds of smoke blanketed the valley. Thanks to updates on the Internet, we were able to keep abreast of the situation as it changed over the course of the afternoon.

By evening, the mountain glowed orange-red, an uncomfortable reminder that danger was too close for comfort. Saturday, we had an impromptu air show as the air support planes traversed a route back and forth over our house. We stayed packed until Sunday morning.

I’m thankful my home state isn’t plagued by tornadoes and hurricanes and giant sinkholes and flooding. It is, however, plagued by wildfires, and I should act accordingly, by putting fire mitigation practices into place on my property. And by being prepared to evacuate as efficiently as possible.

This fire was a reminder that I’m still not as ready as I’d like to be. There are some steps I need to take to improve:

• That vintage trunk of family photos? They need to be sorted, scanned and saved to an external hard drive or to an online storage system.

• Shuffling through a file cabinet for crucial documents is a waste of time. Those documents — birth certificates, licenses, registrations, titles, deeds, copies of medical prescriptions, insurance information, etc. — need to be in one place, ready to go, or maybe even scanned and saved like a photo.

• During fire season, having an overnight bag packed and tucked into a closet is not a bad idea.

• Remember fire drills? What about a timed evacuation drill for your family? How long does it take to get everyone and everything in the car and headed down the road to safety? That would be nice to know in the event of an actual evacuation order.

Nobody likes to think about the possibility of evacuating their home. But thinking about it beforehand, and preparing in advance, is a lot less stressful than trying to figure it out under pressure.

Niki Turner is a freelance writer who lives near Harvey Gap Reservoir. She is a regular contributor to The Citizen Telegram.


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