If you live somewhere in the United States West Coast, you may have noticed the pretty orange sky. Behind that beauty however, lies something horrific. The states of California, Oregon, and Washington are experiencing some of the worst wildfires in recent memory.
In fact, some have taken to describing the aftermath to a warzone. In Detroit City, Oregon, only 20 to 25 structures are left standing. The rest of the city was burned down. A resident whose home was destroyed in the wildfire said the scenario “looks as though a bomb went off.” Even worse, the wildfires have taken over 30 casualties so far while dozens are missing in Oregon.
Even if you don’t reside in the affected states, the horror we are witnessing should be enough to convince us to prepare for such a catastrophe. Below are some tips on how you can survive wildfires.
What Causes Wildfires
The chances of surviving a problem are better if you knowing everything about it. That’s what medical experts and governments around the world are trying to do with the current pandemic. They had to determine where the coronavirus originated and how. Then they studied how they spread. All these vital pieces of information contribute to finding out how to finally get rid of the dreaded virus.
A wildfire or wildland fire is described as a large and destructive fire quickly spreading across a vast area of vegetation. The word “destructive” and “quickly spreading” should be enough clues for you to know that you have to thoroughly prepare in order to survive wildfires.
To survive wildfires, you must know what they are and how they come to be. According to the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), around 85 percent of wildfires in the country are man-made. These destructive fires are often caused by unattended campfires, slash and burn, cigarettes discarded improperly, sparking or malfunctioning equipment, burning debris, and even arson.
The other 15 percent is of natural causes. Lightning is one of the culprits behind these nature-caused wildfires. The others include volcanic eruption and dry climate.
How to Prepare For A Wildfire
As we’ve been preaching here on Gentleman Pirate Club, prevention is better than cure. In this case, proper preparation lessens the risks and increases your chances to survive wildfires.
Keep Wildfires Away From Your Home
If you live in or near the woods, there’s a good chance your home will fall victim to a wildfire. However, there are some steps you can take to keep your property safe from the fire.
Clear the Surrounding Area of Fuel Load
Fuel load is the amount of flammable materials near a fire. The more fuel load there is, the worse a wildfire can be. The fire becomes more intense and will spread faster if there are plenty of fuel load in the surroundings.
Trees, shrubs, and dry grass are prime examples of fuel load. Fallen branches, dried leaves, pine needles, and dried grass are also highly combustible and can worsen a wildfire. Trash and other kinds of debris will also literally add fuel to the fire.
Take the time to go area around your property and remove all these fire hazards on a regular basis. This becomes even more important if there is an actual wildfire nearby. You could use a Greenworks 40V Cordless Brushless Leafless Blower/Vacuum to help you with the dried leaves and grass. The lightweight leaf blower utilizes a 7 amp motor to deliver an impressive 185 MPH blowing power and 340 CUFT per minute of airflow. Use the blower to gather the leaves in one place then change it to the vacuum feature to pick them up easily.
Trim all low-hanging branches from trees. These branches can catch fire from the ground. Removing these low-hanging branches will lessen the chances of the tree catching and spreading fire.
Make sure you have a minimum of six feet vertical clearance or the space from the ground to the tree foliage. For trees with shrubs or bushes underneath, the minimum vertical clearance should be three times the height of the shrub. So if the shrub is 3 feet tall, you need at least nine feet of vertical clearance from the top of the shrub to the bottom of the tree foliage. It’s always a good idea to go beyond the minimum vertical clearance.
You’ll need the right tools for the job. Use a chainsaw such as the BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Cordless Chainsaw to trim trees as quickly as possible. If you prefer not to carry a chainsaw up ten feet or so, go with a high reach tree pruner instead. The 10 feet Glorya Pole Saw is a long saw head attached to a stainless steel rod that lengthens from 3.9 feet to 10 feet. It should be long enough to cut down fire hazards.
Fireproof Your Home
It’s easy to imagine that your home may be no match to a raging wildfire but that doesn’t mean you should just give up. Aside from the precautions you did on your surroundings, you should also fireproof your home. Besides, you’re not just preparing for wildfires. There’s always the possibility that fire starts in your home. In fact, the National Fore Prevention Association (NFPA) determined that around 27% of all reported fires happened in homes while almost 80% of fire-related casualties also occurred at home. These figures should convince you to take the necessary precautions against home fires.
You need to protect your roof from fire since it’s pretty vulnerable. Replace flammable roof materials with Class A fire-rated ones such as asphalt shingles, slate tiles, concrete tiles, or steel. You should also use non-flammable materials such as stucco or fiber cement for your sidings.
Install fire-resistant windows. Normal windows break when exposed to high heat. When this happens, fire can get inside your home. Use double or triple pane, laminated, wired, or modified toughened glass for you windows.
Get rid of that wooden doors and garage doors. Replace them with steel ones. If you insist on wooden doors, there are doors with fire-resistant cores. Install sweeps on the bottom of the door. This will help keep smoke out. Some steel garage doors come with a center core made of heat-resistant material called polyurethane foamed-in-place insulation. They can also be coated with resin for added protection from fire.
Create a 5-foot buffer zone surrounding your home. This area should be free from any combustible materials like dried leaves, dead plants, firewood, tools, and even children’s playsets. Pave this area with concrete or cover with non-flammable materials like gravel. Also, make sure the bottom half foot of the outside wall is made or covered with concrete, brick, stone veneer or other non-flammable materials.
Check all your vents and other openings. Repair damaged vents then cover them with fire screens. Flying embers shouldn’t be able to get inside your home with fire screens blocking the way.
If you live in a two-storey house, you need a fire exit and ladder upstairs. The fire exit can be as simple as a window that can easily be accessed and opened during emergencies. The Kidde 468193 KL-2S Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder with Anti-Slip Rungs can easily be deployed thanks to its tangle-free design. The flame-resistant ladder can also withstand weight of up to 1,000 pounds.
Make A Wildfire Emergency Plan
Once you get wind of a wildfire raging in your state, it’s vital that you keep tabs on it. This way, you’ll know what to do and when to take action. Get alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) weather stations. If there’s a warning system in your community, find out how you can get their alerts.
The Eton Sidekick Weather Alert Radio broadcasts Specific Area Messaging Encoding (SAME) and NOAA weather alerts so you should be updated about a wildfire or other weather disturbances. The Sidekick does more than that, though. It comes with AM and FM radios along with a Bluetooth feature for your music needs.
Weather alerts will give you an idea if you have ample time to make last-minute preparations to keep your property safe in case the wildfire burns your way. If you haven’t cleaned up your surroundings for a while, this is the perfect time to do so. Just be quick about it. Stay tuned while you’re out there clearing fuel load.
Bring your phone when you go out to get your property ready for the wildfire. Better yet, carry a two-way radio, too, so the people back at the house can call and update you on the news. The BaoFeng Tech BF-F8HP HAM Radio is a good communication tool to have during emergencies. It can tap different channels giving you more access to vital information.
Wildfires can spread really fast and you may be caught by surprise in case the wind shifts to your direction. Remember, your life is more valuable than your home. Don’t be stubborn. If it’s not safe to head out, don’t go. Focus on your evacuation plan instead.
Make An Evacuation Plan
Every family needs to have an evacuation plan. This is applicable not only for surviving wildfires but also other emergencies such as hurricanes, floods, home invasion, and terrorist attacks. Discuss your evacuation plan with everyone and make sure to practice it regularly so that you all know what to do when it’s time to put the plan into motion.
Start by choosing a bug out location or shelter. This is the place where you will go after evacuating your home. It can be an evacuation center assigned by the local government, a house or bunker far from where you live, or a relative or friend’s house in the next state.
You should also assign a meet-up point where you should go in case you’re separated from the rest of your family. If you can’t go back home to meet the others, you should wait at the designated meet-up point so they can pick you up on the way to your shelter.
If you’re driving, your bug out location shouldn’t be farther than where a full tank of gas can take you. Speaking of, you should always fill your tank so you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel or lining up at gas stations. If you’re bugging out on foot, your shelter shouldn’t be more than 60 miles from the urban center.
Study all the possible routes leading to your bug out location. Your first option is the shortest and fastest route. In case, that is compromised, you should know where to head next. Also, consider the traffic situation. If a particular route is jammed on regular days, it may likely be worse during an emergency when everyone else is trying to leave town.
You should also practice how exactly you should leave the house. Wherever you are in your home, you should know what to do and where to go when SHTF and you need to bug out.
Build Emergency Kits and Bug Out Bags
If you’re bugging out in a vehicle, you should have an emergency kit tailored for road travel. Make sure you have all the tools you need to keep your car going. Some essential car tools include a jack, tire iron, portable air pump, wheel chocks, pliers, ratchet, screwdrivers, and jumper cables.
Aside from jumper cables, you can also get a portable car jumper like the Pocket Jumper Pro. This nifty device can jump start 5-liter gasoline and 3.5-liter diesel vehicles while also capable of charging small electrical devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Other survival tools that not many car owners are aware they should have in their vehicle are glass breaker or window punch, seatbelt cutter, and a fire extinguisher.
For your bug out bags, let’s start with the bag. You need a sturdy, spacious and light backpack that will allow you to carry as much supplies and survival gear you’ll need. Your backpack should also be waterproof, comfortable, and is in black or other neutral colors. The Tactical Water-Resistant Backpack by Frog & CO meets these requirements and then some.
Food, water and other supplies may not be readily available after a wildfire. Medical supplies may also be hard to come by considering many people and even animals need medical attention after such a disaster. Make sure you have enough supplies at home so you don’t have to go out that much.
Aside from your fully stocked prepper pantry at home, you should also pack your bug out bags with the necessary supplies. Most survival experts suggest packing three days’ worth of food and water. If you can carry beyond that, go ahead and do so.
For your survival gear, you should have some of the basics such as a flashlight, portable lantern, fire starters, tinder, multi-tool, pocket knife, thermal blanket, tent, paracord, and a host of other things. Surgical masks, cloth face masks, and N95 respirators are necessary these days. All three along with face shields, help protect your from viruses with varying degrees of success.
N95 respirators are the best choice not only against the coronavirus but also against wildfires. These respirators protect you from smoke particles. We all know that smoke is the silent killer in many fire-related cases. With N95 respirators, you can at least lessen smoke inhalation.
What To Do When You’re Trapped Near A Wildfire
It’s hard to figure wildfires out. It could be razing far enough from you but the next minute, it’s headed towards you. That’s why you should stay vigilant once you got wind of a wildfire nearby. But if by some unfortunate instance that you are trapped or can’t outrun a wildfire, there are still ways you can make it out alive.
When You’re Driving
If you’re on the road when a wildfire approaches, try driving away as fast and as far as possible. Be careful, though, as the thick smoke will hinder visibility. Always wear your seatbelt.
In case you’re trapped near a wildfire, your best move is to find a clear area and park there. Stay away from trees and other vegetation as much as possible. Close all the windows and cover the vents.
Lie on the floor then cover yourself with a fire blanket and wool blanket. Hopefully, you have both in your vehicle for double the protection.
When You’re On Foot
If you’re on foot, your best chance to survive wildfires is to find a spot clear of vegetation. If that is not an option, look for a ditch or a depression on the ground. Lie down as close to the ground as you can and cover your body.
When You’re Trapped At Home
If you’re at home or in a building and it’s no longer possible to move to a safer place, you’re best bet is to stay put. If you have enough time, do some last-minute preparations. Head out quickly and keep your gate propped open. It will be harder for the fire fighters to come to your rescue if they can’t get through the gate. Leave your ladder outside where the fire fighters can easily spot it. Prop it against the wall on the corner of your home. They’ll need it to reach your roof.
Attach your garden hose to the tap outside. Give your place a good drenching, especially the roof. Hose down your lawn along with the trees and shrubs, as well. If you have lawn sprinklers, turn them on so you can cover a lot more space. Place it on the roof if possible. Turn it off before you head back inside. Fill pails and other containers with water and leave them outside. They will come in handy in fighting the fire.
Close all the doors and windows but make sure they’re unlocked so rescuers can reach you. Turn the lights on. The light outside will tell the rescue team that people are inside the home and needs help. The lights inside, meanwhile, will help increase the visibility if smoke fills up the place.
Try your darn best to keep the smoke out. Cover vents and other openings where embers and smoke can get through. Embers can start a fire in your home if gets in contact with a flammable material. Use wet towels or clothes to block the space under the doors to keep smoke out.
Remove all flammable items near the windows, doors and other openings. Even if you closed or covered them already, embers might still get through and set these flammable materials ablaze. Be ready with your fire extinguisher and buckets of water. Drench some towels or blankets with water, too. In case an ember gets in starts a fire, use them to put it out immediately.
Stay away from the windows and walls as much as possible. The only time you should get near is to douse a fire. It’s better if everyone stays somewhere at the center of the house. Grab your bug out bags, wear your N95 respirators then cover yourselves with fire blankets such as JJ CARE Fire Blanket. If you don’t have one, wool blankets or wet clothes will do. Stay as low as possible to avoid inhaling smoke.
Don’t forget to shut off the propane tanks and natural gas at the meter. Turn off the pilot lights of your appliances, as well. Also, fill your sink and bath tub with water. Turn the faucets off after. The water pressure may be affected if you leave them running.
In all these scenarios, you should always stay calm so you can think straight. You should also call 911 to inform them of your situation. Try your best to pinpoint your location so it will be easier for them to rescue you. All these are too much for one person to handle. Make sure everybody else knows what to do. It’s a good idea to practice the drill every now and then. Oh, and bring your pets inside, too.
What To Do After
If you’re safe at a shelter, stay there until the local authorities say it’s safe to go back home. Once you can go out, wear your N95 respirator still. There’ll still be smoke and the threat of the coronavirus. If you have an existing lung condition such as asthma, it is better that you stay in a safe place. Wait until the air is breathable before heading out.
Watch your step. There’ll be smoldering debris and hot ash everywhere. It would look be kinda stupid if you manage to survive wildfires yet get hurt after it’s over. Wear protective clothing when cleaning up. Put on a long-sleeved shirt, pants, boots or any shoes with thick soles, work gloves, and your N95 mask. A helmet would be nice, too. Watch out for hanging branches and burnt debris that may fall on your head.
Wildfires are pretty scary from afar. Imagine the raging fire heading straight for you. You need to think fast when this happens. Always be ready to evacuate your home. As we said before, your lives are more important than material things. If your home does burn down, you can still pick up the pieces and build another one. But if you or one of your loved ones does not survive wildfires, that’s it. No more second chances. Well, unless someone figures out time travel.
Check out Gentleman Pirate Club and read more about tips on how to survive wildfires and other disasters. If you have stories or tips to share, please leave them in the comment section. We’ll be delighted to hear from you.