Wildfires are uncontrolled fires that can originate from a dropped cigarette, campfire, arson, and even a lightning strike. There are many environmental influences, like temperature, humidity, and wind that can contribute to the spread of a wildfire. The dryer the air, the easier it is for the fire to spread. On an average basis, roughly 100,000 wildfires occur annually in the United States. Four out of five wildfires are started by humans. When humans are careless with their use of fire in wooded areas, the conditions exist for wildfires to start.
Steps you can take to prepare for a wildfire:
- Keep your In Case of Emergency (ICE) list readily available. Maintain a list by every phone.
- Keep household items like rakes, axes, saws, shovels, and buckets accessible.
- Build your home out of fire resistant material.
- Keep your gutters and roof free from leaves and debris.
- Keep your water sources ready; possibly build a small pond, cistern, or pool to create a barrier between the house and fire.
- Make sure your address is clearly marked and can be seen by first responders.
- Plan your evacuation routes early. Identify at least two ways out of your neighborhood and city.
- Know where you will evacuate to and have a map of the area.
- Have a meeting place ready for your family and make sure it is communicated. Plant trees and shrubs that are fire resistant.
- Use spark arresters to help protect your chimney.
- Store firewood and keep any surrounding home vegetation at least 100 feet from your home.
- Install fire resistant roofing and other building material.
Steps you can take if a wildfire is reported in your area:
- Be ready to evacuate with very little notice.
- Listen to your National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio and local TV and radio stations for guidance on what to do next.
- Keep your pets inside and ready for travel crates.
- Make sure you have arranged to lodge at a motel, or friend or relative’s house. Keep an eye on air quality reports.
- Leave your windows and doors shut to keep out the smoke.
- If possible, leave your air conditioner on the recirculate mode.
- Seek medical care if any lung issues arise.
- Do not vacuum, use candles, or anything else that may add to the smoke in your home.
Over the last 15 years there have been over 1.2 million wildfires and over 96.2 million acres destroyed in the United States due to wildfires. There have been close to 300 firefighter fatalities in the same time period. With winds that can exceed 120 mph and high temperatures, very large fires can dry out the areas in their path and can actually create the perfect conditions for escalation. The aftermath of a fire can be disastrous as grasses, trees and plants that help to ease erosion have been destroyed, which can lead to follow-up problems such as flash floods, mudslides, landslides, and even ash flows. Wildfires can also have a damaging effect on water quality in the areas they destroy.