Wild Fires in the West, the Season Is Upon Us – Here’s My 11 Step Plan

Wild fires in the west, the season is upon us, I have been reading about the fires in Utah, Arizona and California, what tragedies. It’s easy to understand how the fires are able to burn so violently after a person spends time in an isolated area. Years ago a friend and I were in the Sierra’s on a camping/hiking trip, we passed a canyon called “Jose Basin”. Jose Basin is a canyon about 1/2 mile wide and 2 miles long, not very big for a canyon. It’s about 500 feet deep and filled to the top with bone dry Manzanita. We stopped at the bottom, the canyon rose to a height 1500 feet above us at about a 22 degree pitch. We got out of the truck and looked at it talking about the fire danger, it would be an enormous fire. Being in the middle of nowhere it would most likely be left to burn, I don’t know if it ever did, that was the last time I went up there. There are many places like Jose Basin in our country.

The fires started me to think (again) about what I would do in the event we had a wild fire on our Island that endangered my house. What would I grab to get out, how would I prioritize what I take, and how clearly would I be thinking? It seems all of the bad stuff happens in the middle of the night, it sure seems like most house fires do, I made a list of 11 things I would do:

1) Get up and get dressed, prior to retiring at night I make sure I have clothes set up next to my bed that are easy to put on.

2) Get my 95 year old mother in law up and out, make sure she has clothes set out the night prior as well.

3) Grab my emergency backpack, one of them has my laptop (my business is in it), medications, and emergency plan inside.

OK, so far so good, it’s making sense.

4) Save my wheelchair, OK I suppose it should be saved, I can walk a short distance so I can escape.

Now it’s starting to get dicey

5) Save my guitars, see it’s plural, not a good sign. Which one will I take? All of them grab them all.

6) I can’t do without my banjo and ukulele, must haves. (do you see where this is heading?)

7) Get out the door and dump it all on the levee, then head back in for more! (Oh Oh)

8) Get my mobility scooter out of there now, another must have, don’t forget the charger!

9) I forgot the tower computer, it has all of our photos in it.

10) I almost forgot the car keys, go get them and you better be quick.

11) The dog! I forgot the dog!

Holy Smokes! Now to reality, if I attempt to take all that stuff I would need a pickup and trailer to load it all into. Numbers 1-2 and 3 everything else is replaceable and insured. Grab my backpack, get grandma, put the dog on a leash and Get the heck out! I have convinced myself I have less than one minute to do just the few things I have planned, one minute. My guitar’s oh man that would be hard to leave behind, but there are hundreds made every year, I’m sure I would find replacements. My Wheelchair and mobility scooter oh well, there are thousands made every month. I can’t think of a thing more important than Grandma, Wife, Dog and me. That’s the importance of creating a disaster plan, including all of the emergency events possible in your area. Sometimes two or three plans are needed for different types of possible emergency’s, however most of the time one plan will suffice.

Wild fires that I have seen, mostly on newscast, burn so violently hot and move so fast they allow very little time to think of our next moves. It appears the fires get close to a structure causing it to explode in flames, it leaves little time to escape. I came up with the one minute rule after watching a demonstration put on by the local fire dept. (it was a video). Inside a mock living room was a Christmas tree, a couch, table, and chairs. The tree was ignited, in less than 1 minute the entire room was filled with fire. (See the video here )If a person is asleep during this event one minute is a long time for a fire to burn. I estimate I have an escape time of just 1 minute, a very sobering thought.

The area around us is kept under control, people cut their weeds and are conscience about the hazards. We aren’t immune but the residents do have it under control. There is 200 acres of pasture across the road, the livestock keeps it pretty well controlled. Across the river (it’s actually a slough) there is approximately 500 acres of pasture, it does catch fire from time to time, the caretaker is quick to douse them. Beyond the island across the slough is the “Diablo Range” of mountains, it’s shredded wheat, a wild area from San Francisco all the way south to the grapevine, south of Bakersfield. It could burn forever, in fact I sit in my chair working and once in a while I see a wild fire start on the mountain side, they rapidly grow out of control.

Is there any pro-active tasks we can perform to eliminate the danger? I’m not sure however, we will most likely never be able to control or predict wild fires, we can perform some tasks to lessen the damages. As a community we may be able to keep entire rows of homes out of the fire, perhaps where a development backs up to a wild area beyond the back fence lies the danger, if weeds grow right up to it we can keep them plowed under. Life in the mountains, extremely rural, tall trees surrounding the house, oh man, prevention would be tough. Clearing the land for 100 feet from any structure would help, but then there are the stock animals as well. It’s distressing just imagining it, I feel for the people dealing with it as I am writing this.

So it brings me back to grandma, dog, wife, me and if I am able to grab my kit, well, more power to me. I don’t think my guitars, ukes, banjo or computer are a hill I want to die on. The list is far too easy to add to, and impossible to remove from, prioritizing what’s important is the most important task in your evacuation plan. Wild fires are natural, they are OK as long as they are in the “wild”, it’s where they meet civilization that the trouble begins. Wild fires always leave me with the thought “man I wish I could help.”

What do you think, what would you grab? Do you have a plan? Do you have emergency backpacks set up in convenient spots? Maybe you live where there is no threat of wild fire, that’s a good place to be.